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Sunday, November 17, 2019

Scavenging For Art Supplies

Twice a week an alarm goes off in my studio to remind me that its 10pm. I then  drive across town so I can root around in the trash of one of our local businesses.

What I am looking for is styrofoam panels that come in packing boxes. The business I stop at is a furniture store and I know that twice a week they put out their recycling from displays they've put together. 

Styrofoam is one of the most useful substances I've ever worked with. I can paint on it, sculpt with it, cut through it, melt it, and a dozen other things. For an artist on a budget, its one of the best things I can keep in my studio inventory. The bigger the panel, the happier I am. 

And it also is a great way to reuse a substance that gets discarded and pollutes the planet. 

A lot of artists hate it. It can be difficult to use when you have no experience with it. But if you can understand one simple rules, you can use it for anything. That rule is:

Don't cut the styrofoam. Melt it.

Cutting it will only fill your studio with tinier bits of foam. 

I have plenty of items I use to work with styrofoam. I have several hair dryers, a heat gun, a soldering iron and a heat pen. Anything that radiates heat can help you. But even without cutting, there is another substance which works well. Spray Paint. The aerosol in the spray paint will melt styrofoam when applied to it. 

Now why would I want to melt styrofoam? Consider this. The average canvas that an artist might use to paint a picture only allows for the artist to use mediums to build the canvas out if they wish for texture. But melting styrofoam allows an additional dimension. You can now melt in to the foam. Unless you cut a canvas, there is no easy way to simply create contours upon it. Once you create your contour, you can then paint it much in the same way you would apply gesso to an uncured canvas. The result is a much more diverse surface for your work that is just as strong as a canvas would be. The thicker the foam, the more variety you can create. 

So the next time you see a piece of styrofoam in someones trash, snag it and play with it a bit. It costs you nothing but your ingenuity to turn it into a masterpiece.

Here are a few of the things I've created with it.

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