Recycled Art - Andy Holmes Turns Trash Into Treasure

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
March 5th, 2009

When the average person out there (and I’m one of them) thinks of ways to green up the world they tend to think of driving less, windmills, planting trees, picking up garbage, replacing lightbulbs and such. One area that never crossed my mind until now was greening our planet through art.

This past year, Rossland artist Andy Holmes received a grant from the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance, administered through the CBT ( The same grant that Heather Good got for her 33 paintings in 33 days from last week’s story) to research and develop new artistic techniques utilizing recycled materials and creating his own non toxic paints.

Intrigued by the thought of recycled art, I had a chat with Andy this week and learned that he is doing more than just reycling materials; he is also recycling creativity itself through workshops and camps with other artists and youth in the area.

Tell me a little bit about what the grant you received was for?

Last year, I got a grant to make paints so I did a bit of research into pigments, bought a bunch of non-toxic pigments and different materials to make paint. Basically, I made some paints like tempura paint made out of eggs and some others with different non-toxic mediums. I found some mediums worked better with different pigments, so there was a lot of experimentation, basically. I also did a lot of tours around Rossland to the different construction sites last year and picked up old windows, cupboard doors, different plywoods and chunks of foam insulation to use for surfaces.

I did lots of research and a friend of mine gave me a few books on paints and painting techniques. Some of the oldest paints ever were made out of eggs. I just did different recipes and added different amounts and experimented to see what worked best.

What motivated you to get into the recycled art world?

The whole shebang started last year as my daughter in kindergarten for her science fair project wanted to do her project on how to make paint. I kind of helped her make paint, she was grinding up egg shells for white and charcoal for black and using spices for different colors and making egg tempura paint. Helping her do that just really opened my eyes to the potential. I applied for the grant and got that money, which was great for moving the project forward.

The motivation is from being an artist for a long time and wanting to explore making art that was more environmentally friendly from making the paints down to the surfaces used. If you can use recycled plywood from construction sites and then non-toxic paint that you’ve made, I think you’re moving closer to environmentally friendly pieces of art. Some of this art is pretty much 100% reused or recycled

What did you discover through the project?

Just the ability to expand the realm of possibilities, in a sense. Instead of using a piece of foam insulation as garbage, seeing it as a surface and then you start to glue new surfaces onto that surface and you start to build out in a sense. Each possibility creates new possibilities.

Any favourite pieces that came out of the project?

My favourite pieces are the ones on plywood and utilizing broken pottery. My wife has been collecting all of the broken bits of pottery that we’ve broken over the years, so basically I ended up gluing bits of pottery onto plywood that I would paint with paint from the dump. With the pottery I would build them into, like, brick walls on the painting so it would be like a landscape and a wall made out of broken bits of pottery with some trees behind the wall. They were a lot of fun and also the paintings on foam insulation were neat. You can get that two inch foam insulation from construction sites; they just throw away all of the ends. You can prime that and it makes quite a fun painting surface.

What’s been the most enjoyable part of the process?

One of the funnest things was getting thrown-away paint from Tyler at the dump and doing kind of Jackson Pollock splatter paintings. I’d do it outside in the summer laying out different surfaces that I’d got from construction sites, the dump and dumpsters and then kind of drip and splatter the paint across it. What I would see in the drips and splatter I would then add on to it and add on to it. It was kind of a very subconscious exploration having no plan other than the process basically. That was really fun. It definitely helped me create some new styles which I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to explore otherwise.

Where would you like to take it in the future?

I’m definitely going to keep going with it. I run an art camp at the youth center in Trail at the YCDC youth center. I introduced to the kids at the art group a lot of the different ideas around how you can make art, and they are going to be part of the show that I’m doing in April. Some of the youth art is going to be put into the Rouge Gallery.

So you’re recycling your recycling knowledge?

Exactly. I’m going to apply for another CBT grant to keep going on the project and to do some workshops for artists in the area and pass on some of the things I’ve found. I’d like to introduce it to artists from the Rouge and other artists in the Kootenays because I think there is lot of thought about the environment and as artists we can really move towards more sensitive product. There’s a lot of potential to grow that world here. I realize that I’ve learned some but I have so much more to learn about it. It’s endless, once you start getting into it there are so many facets that it’s quite exciting.

Where can we see it?

There’s a show at the Fire Hall and there is some art in the Rouge Gallery and there is a lot of art on the Art for People website.

Categories: Arts and Culture

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