Material Concerns – Part 1 – Paper


How Do You Make Art That is Healthy for You and for the Environment?

This is a question I have thought a lot about and will probably continue to ponder as there are no perfect solutions. The essential question I’m exploring here is, “How do you tread more lightly on the planet and be creative at the same time?” Each medium presents different issues. This will be a series and I will address different mediums in each post.

For the first post, I’ve chosen Paper, because it is one of the oldest, most ubiquitous, and readily accessible for all to use. 


One of the most common materials used by artists is paper. It is  very affordable and readily accesible. It is a great material for artists with any size budget. On the plus side, paper can be recycled pretty efficiently. It is non-toxic to the user, and it is highly portable and doesn’t take up a lot of space. Also, paper can be made from a variety of sources, hemp, bamboo, papyrus, in addition to trees are all are a renewable resource that absorb carbon.

However, there are quite a few concerns when you consider the environmental impacts. Paper requires the cutting down of trees, the transporting of trees, processing with all the chemicals that entails, which then creates a number of byproducts that need to be “disposed” of. If we look at this in a full circle way is there a real way to get rid of things that deposit toxins into the environment? How much can an ecosystem absorb before it creates problems for the  forms of life that exist there? Some manufacturers are trying to get it right and working towards a better system and outcome. There is often concern that companies are promoting an image of environmental responsibility  but not actually following through with sustainable practices. Accountability and verificaiton are essential in assuring that actions match the words.

For my prints I am choosing to use paper by Hahnemuehle. For my watercolors I use Strathmore, it’s not perfect but they have some eco-responsible practices in place.

Written by jennalex

Artist and designer who explores the relationship between the natural world and the digital world and aims to create art and design that expands people's consciousness and creates meaningful experiences.

September 28, 2022