Tutorials & Tips

Recycling Ideas

Phone Books

Depending on where you live and work, you may receive multiple phonebooks each year. This means you'll likely be disposing of multiple phone books each year, as well. It seems a shame to dump all that paper in the recycling bin, so I tend to hang onto them.

What do I use phone books for?

My favorite use is for blotting brushes while Iím painting (saves on paper towels!). The paper is soft and absorbant, so it sucks up excess liquid nicely. I also like to use phone books while Iím working on collages. The pages are great for placing under small items while youíre painting them or applying adhesive to them. When a page gets yucky, just tear it out or flip to the next page.

You can also use the pages as a collage base. Tear them up to create visual interest. Paint them. Ink over them. Or, use some of the blotter pages youíve gotten paint on. You can then seal the paper or you can draw or paint directly onto it. It takes charcoal, ink, and oil pastel nicely (just like newsprint).

Here are two quick and easy examples from one of my one of my journals.

Left: I removed several phone book pages, then tore them into vertical strips and adhered them with acrylic matte medium. The lettering on was done using a Faber-Castell Pitt brush tip pen. The page was then inked by gently rubbing an ink pad directly over it.

Right: Again, I tore several phone book pages into strips, then adhered them with acrylic medium. On top, I used a credit card to squeegee two layers of acrylic paint. The images of Baubo are Polaroid photos I altered and attached with old-fashioned black photo corners.

Stay Away
Stay Away
collage (strips from phone book pages) and Faber-Castell Pitt Pen in composition book
9 3/4 x 15 inches

Baubo's Safari
Baubo's Safari
altered Polaroid, acrylic, and telephone book pages in composition book
9 3/4 x 15 inches

Styrofoam Trays

Many towns do not offer styrofoam recycling, so figuring out how to get a little more life out of the ubiquitous trays from meat and packaged vegetables can be a challenge. I've found that they make wonderful palettes for watercolor and acrylic paints. I think they're especially useful for acrylics, because the dried layers of paint can be simply peeled from the plastic surface.

Credit Cards

I get tons of fake credit cards in the mail. Instead of throwing them away, I save them to use as paint applicators. If you don't have credit cards, then small pieces of chip board or paste board can be used in the same way.

I start by squeezing a small amount of paint onto the page, then, holding the card at about a 45ļ angle, I use it like a squeegee to thinly spread the paint over the surface of the paper. Multiple layers and colors of paint can be applied in this manner. You can also use paper a towel or baby wipe to buff the paint. This will thin and smoothe the paint even further.

You can also cut notches into the card. This will create a comb-like pattern when you drag the card through the paint.

Left: I applied a lemon yellow layer, using a credit card squeegee, then a baby wipe to remove as much of the paint as I could. Then, I applied a layer of metallic gold and another of metallic antique gold, using a squeegee.

Right: I used a credit card squeegee to apply paint to both sides of this spread. The left-hand side is lighter, because I applied only one coat. The left-hand side has two coats. I used a paper towel to buff the extra paint off both sides.

The Sun Came Out (detail from journal page)
collage with Portfolio watersoluble crayon and India ink in composition book


/ Sacred Heart (Composition Book Journal)
Guacamole and Sacred Heart
label from candle, vegetable stickers, acrylic paint, and metallic gel marker in composition book journal
9 3/4 x 14 1/2 inches

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Copyright © 2007 Shelly Couvrette