Aldona Bird, Columns/Opinion

Zero-waste artist uses found canvases, leftover paint to create original pieces

OK, by now you probably know some of my likes and dislikes. But if this is the first time you’re reading my column, I’ll fill you in really fast.

Likes: Local art, local food, zero waste, gardening, community.

Dislikes: Waste, thoughtlessness, pollution (physical and chemical), box stores.

Recently I had the pleasure of chatting with a West Virginia artist whose work particularly interested me.

Quincy Gray McMichael’s Instagram page (artyqueue), and her description of her zero-waste art excited me because I loved her style, and previously had not considered the waste that goes into making art.

“I don’t plan out my pieces,” Quincy told me. “I just start painting and see where it goes.”

Her social media pages show that her work usually is abstract.

She uses found canvases and recycled paint. The found canvases she often obtains from work on her farm. She has been building a barn out of oak, and uses left over wood for canvases, in addition to other local wood that wouldn’t be used in projects.

Quincy uses latex paint leftover from her own projects, or that friends give her from their projects. Sometimes Quincy buys mis-tint paint from shops.

“I haven’t discovered why people don’t use latex paint for art,” she said.

Even with her self-set limit of using leftover paint, she said, “I really like the variety of color I can get.” She said it feels really good to use something that would end up in the landfill or down the drain.

Chatting with Quincy made me aware of waste that goes into artwork. In my own crafting endeavors I know I do create waste, and I try to hoard as many odds and ends and materials as I can for unforeseen projects.

But how much waste goes into a painting? Little tubes of paint add up. I don’t know much about traditional canvas creation, but I’m willing to bet there is a lot of energy and scraps (canvas and wood) wasted.

Why not use scraps of wood as canvas? Why not use leftover paint? Quincy didn’t see a reason why not, and so produced unique, aesthetic and environmentally conscious art.

Her chosen mediums fit into her general lifestyle choices. She works her permaculture farm on her own. “I do all my work by hand, I don’t use a tractor or anything.” Her farm is tucked into the Appalachian mountains, bordered by national forests on two sides.

Quincy consults on permaculture layouts, designing self-contained integrated systems, which mimic nature, based on her clients’ particular needs and spaces — which Quincy said is also a form of art.

As someone who doesn’t like to sit idle, she has found painting in the shade on her porch in the heat of the day suits her. She says it helps her “make space for quiet time while also having it be productive.”

Quincy said most people are interested in her work because they like the aesthetics of it, and she was happy to talk to someone whose interest sparked from the zero waste aspect.

“I love to show my art because I love to have people look at it,” she said.

Now that I’ve put more thought into waste in the art field, I doubt I will be able to look at another work of art without trying to calculate the waste made in its creation.