Repurposing Your Artwork: Saving the Earth One Project at a Time | Caitlin Sheffer | Skillshare

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Repurposing Your Artwork: Saving the Earth One Project at a Time

teacher avatar Caitlin Sheffer, Watercolor Artist & Designer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

8 Lessons (36m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Class Project

    • 3. Getting Started

    • 4. Original Art Greeting Card

    • 5. Reducing Waste as an Artist

    • 6. 3D Framed Artwork

    • 7. Final Thoughts

    • 8. BONUS! Quick Ways to Reduce Waste at Home or Work

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About This Class


Last year around the holidays, like a lot of people, I did most of my shopping on Amazon. I mean, can you get any better than free two day shipping and avoiding long lines at the stores? Since becoming a mom it's been much more convenient for me to quickly hit "Add to Cart" whenever I'm running low on anything from diapers to art supplies to gluten-free pasta.

After a few days of heavy online shopping, those infamous cardboard boxes started piling up at my door - and more often than not - only contained one small item per box. My eyes were opened for the first time and I knew I needed to do a better job at reducing waste in my personal life, as well as in my business. 

As I was doing a bit of spring cleaning in my studio, I was confronted with "the drawer" - the place where I shove all my old artwork. I couldn't bear the thought of filling my trash can with so much waste, so I started thinking of ways I could repurpose my old original paintings. That's when the concept for this course came together. I was determined to find ways to up-cycle items laying around my studio.

This course can be taken by artists of all levels, and in any medium. We will complete two projects that demonstrate how easy it is to repurpose old artwork into brand new masterpieces. We will also discuss ways that we can reduce waste in our personal lives, as well as in our art practices. 

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Follow along on Instagram: @emeraldandivystudios


Meet Your Teacher

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Caitlin Sheffer

Watercolor Artist & Designer

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I'm Cate from Emerald Ivy Studios, and I'm just a little in love with flowers, watercolors, and Diet Dr. Pepper. I'm a mom by day, artist by night, and a proud Hallmark Channel movie enthusiast. This is my happy corner of the internet where I will share with you my latest tutorials, tips, and tricks. Follow along on Instagram (@EmeraldandIvyStudios) for glimpses into my process. 


Questions/Inquiries? You can get in touch by leaving a comment or by emailing: [email protected]

Based in Virginia, United States.

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1. Introduction: Hey everyone, I'm Kateland Shaffer from emerald in IB studios and I'm so excited you're joining me here today. The topic we're going to be talking about is something that's been on my mind a lot lately, especially since about last Christmas. I started ordering all my friends and families Christmas presents on Amazon. I haven a membership, so I get free two-day shipping and it was just so convenient to hop online think, "Oh, I need to get some makeup for my best friend or I need to get a DVD for my son." Just click an order and click and order, click and order. Before I knew it, my living room was full of cardboard boxes. More often than not, each box only had a small item. I sat back on my couch looking at this giant pile of cardboard, thinking to myself, this is just so wasteful. I felt really guilty that I was part of the problem, that I had been ordering and had been creating a lot of waste. I started to wonder what I could do to lessen my impact on the environment. One place that I noticed that I was creating quite a bit of waste was in my business. I'm an artist and I deal with paper all the time and I order art supplies all the time. I really had to sit back and think, how could I change things up to repurpose and recycle better? Now, I want to show you the drawer. I have a drawer in my office that have kept and hoarded every single painting I've done over the past couple of years. As I was thinking of how I could improve as an artist in my environmental impact, I thought there's got to be something I can do to repurpose some of this art instead of just throwing it in the trash. Today we are going to talk all about how we as artists can create something new from something old, something that just needs a little encouragement to have a new take on life. 2. Class Project: In this class, we're going to do two projects. We're going to create a beautiful greeting card from old art. We're also going to create a collage from old paintings. These two projects work really well with watercolors, the medium that I use. But keep in mind if this doesn't suit your type of art, think of something similar or something that pops out to you that you can do. I want you to share it with the class in the project section below. I leave comments on every single project, and I love seeing how creative you guys get. It's a really fun part of my job, and I learn from you guys too. So please share with me what you work on at the end of this lesson. I want you to go pull out an old piece of artwork that you haven't touched in a long time, and I want you to think how many different things you can make that's new from something old. But the reality is we are all responsible for what we leave behind, and I don't want to go down regardless of what is happening in the world. I want to know that I did my best to leave a beautiful Earth behind me. For me that means I need to work on creating less waste. As we're going, I'll share some helpful tips that you can use in your business and in your personal life. Some of my tips have nothing to do with art, but I think they're really great and you should try them too. Let's get started, and I can't wait to see what you guys come up with. 3. Getting Started: Welcome to my little studio space. I've pulled out everything that was in that drawer, almost everything and I want to share with you what I've got. I've divided it into categories, and it's helpful if you do something similar, if you're a watercolor artist, to divide it up based on what you've painted. Right here in this stack, I've painted more like scenes or entire bouquets. This is a painting of Greece, this is more composed pieces. Here's a tree, a lemon tree. Just some of my more composed pieces. The second pile is actually, I've saved all the artwork that I've painted for all of my skill share classes. If you've been around, you might have seen my class about floral arranging for artists. I still have some of the artwork for that. Then my last pile is more elements, more individual paintings of flowers and leaves. I have lots of those years and years worth of Clip Art and individual flowers. This type of paintings lends itself very well to the second project that we're going to work on today, which is a collage piece of art work. I'm going to find my favorites. I'm going to cut them out. And we're going to create something brand new from these old paintings. The first project that we're going to work on is I'm going to take one of these more composed pieces of artwork that I have, and I'm going to turn it into a thank you card for my grandmother and I'm hoping that she enjoys a customed watercolor thank you card. These two projects work really well with the type of art that I have in my studio. Obviously, if you paint on large canvases, this isn't going to work for you and I want to know what you're going to do to make something new. I hope you share photos of your projects in the project section below. 4. Original Art Greeting Card: I've gone through my stack of prearranged paintings, and I pulled out the four that I think would look best as a greeting card for my grandma. I know that I want it to be about the size of a greeting card, which is typically about five by seven inches, or in the stationary role, it's called an A7 card. Instead of going out and buying new envelopes or buying a pre-made card, I'm going to use what I have on hand. These are just a few of the envelopes that I have sitting in my office. What I'm going to do is I'm going to hold each one up. Obviously the white one I don't really need to test because that will look fine with any of them, but I'm going to go ahead and see if any of the envelopes just go really well with any of the paintings. I think I'm going to go with this one. I think this will look really sweet for my grandma, and it'll look really nice. To get started, I have my paper trimmer, but if you are going to go ahead and do this project, you can also a pair of scissors if you don't have a paper cutter. The great news is you can cut it to any size that you need. I happened to have this piece of note card right here because this is what the envelope comes with, so I know that this card will fit perfectly. I'm going to use that as my template for this card. What I'm going to do, is I'm going to actually fold this piece of paper in half, with a thick watercolor paper, you might have a little bit of frame on the crease, but don't worry too much about that, It adds to the charm of being a handmade card. Now that it's folded, I'm going to lightly trace with a pencil around the shape of the card, so I'm going to go ahead, lightly trace. I have my lightly traced outline. I'm going to go ahead and take my paper trimmer, line up the edges. There we go. We have this really pretty little card, and you can have it go lengthwise or vertical. I think either way, it's going to look really nice when they arrives, and whoever is lucky enough to get a custom card from you is just going to feel like the luckiest person in the world, and it's just a beautiful little keep safe. 5. Reducing Waste as an Artist: We've already talked about how to repurpose our old artwork, so here is five rapid-fire ways that you can reduce waste as an artist. Number one, purchase your supplies at local art stores, and bring your own reusable bags. That's easy, right? Two, if you have to order art supplies online, order as much as you can out one time to reduce the number of boxes that are shipped to you. Three, use reusable towels to clean your brushes and art supplies, so that you don't have to use paper products. Four, if you ship out products, search for mailing supplies that are biodegradable or that are made from recycled material. Five, if you need to furnish your office or your studio, checkout local thrift stores or antique stores, so that you support local businesses, you don't have to have anything shipped to your home, and you don't have to discard of any packaging. 6. 3D Framed Artwork: For our second and final project, if you're following along with me and doing the same thing, we are going to go through our old art work and we are going to start cutting things out. Don't get scared. If you're like me, the artwork has been sitting in a drawer sad and left alone for many years or at least many months, and if you feel nervous about cutting it up, just let it go. Just know that you're going to be making something new and something beautiful and let that inspire you. I have this stack, like I mentioned earlier, artwork that I created to be used for clip art, so, they're all really easy for me to cut out because they're already isolated. What I'm going to do, is I'm going to go through this stack of artwork and I'm going to flag all of my favorite ones, and then I'm going to cut each of them out. Just to show you how simple it can be, I'm just going to use these good old trusty scissors. If you find it easier that you have small really detailed paintings, you might want to use an X-ACTO knife. Just makes sure that when you are carving out with your X-ACTO knife that you have it on a surface that you're not going to ruin underneath your paper, so, like a piece of cardboard maybe from an old amazon box perhaps. Just keep that in mind. I'm going to go ahead and go through this big stack of paper, pull out my favorites, and I'm going to start cutting things out. What we're essentially doing in this project, and I think it would work well for other artists who use different mediums, is we're just going to make a collage basically, and I'm going to use depth in this collage to create a three-dimensional effect. I'm sure you've seen things like this before, but I like framing it in the sense that we are repurposing, recycling, leaving a better Earth behind us, so, we're not throwing all of this in the trash. That eventually what we create can go up on her wall or be given as a gift to someone we love. I'm going to just look through this artwork and obviously I love flowers, that's predominantly what I paint. So I know it's going to be a floral piece. I'm just going to look and see if there's a theme of some of my favorite things. If I see something that I really like, I'm going to pull it out, and it might be fun these one of these banners, let's see what we end up doing. I'm just scanning really quickly. Obviously I'm going to need some greenery, not just flowers, so, we'll pull those ferns out. Lemons are so fun. It's really, really fun to go down memory lane when you're looking at your old art because some of these were some of my first paintings and it's just fun to see how far you've come. If you want to, you can just go ahead and start cutting things out, or if you want to have a more methodical strategy, you can go through each page and mark, I want to cut up this one, maybe cut a little dot by, I cut out this one, might want this little guy. Just to make it easier for yourself that you're not cutting out every single piece, you can certainly do that if you want. It just might save you a little bit of time in the long run. [MUSIC] Okay. I now have all of my pieces that I want to use for this new piece of artwork cut out, which is definitely more tedious than you would think especially because I did smaller individual elements that using a bigger scissor was a lot harder. It's definitely easier if you have smaller scissors, or if you use an X-ACTO knife to get into the nooks and crannies, but I think for what I'm going to be doing, and this will be just fine, and you can be as detailed with your cutting as you want. It's totally up to you. Ultimately what I'm going to be doing, is I'm going to be making a new bouquet, a new floral arrangement, if you would call it that, on a new piece of paper, and what I'd like to do, is this frame that I have on my wall has some room to give some depth, so, if I want to show this three-dimensional piece of artwork, there's room for that in the frame there, if you can see there's a gap. What I'm hoping, is that I'll be able to make a three-dimensional piece of artwork with my repurposed flowers, and I'll have a nice new piece of our work to hang on my wall. A while back, I did a custom order for a bride who needed some watercolor backgrounds, and I thought this would be, it's the perfect size. I need about a 5 by 7 for this frame, and they are already colored, so, I was thinking I would use one of these 5 by 7 as the base background for my collage. I'm just going to hold up each color and see how it jives. I definitely think that's a little too bold. It actually might look nice, but it's a little too much for what I'm going for and then this is definitely more neutral but it blends in with some of the flower colors, so, I think I might set that one aside. This is a very light, it's got some gold and very light green, and then this one is a stronger green. I think I'm going to do it between the two of these and decide. Let's just see how things are looking. See, I think this might be really nice. Okay. That's my test piece. Let's see how it looks with this green background. Probably like that. I think I like how it pops more on this lighter one. Let's go ahead and set this to the side, and I'll explain how we going to make this three-dimensional. Now, the point of this project and this class, is to find things that you have in your studio and use what you have and not have to go out and buy more supplies or order things online. I already have this crafters tape, which is just a sticky adhesive form that you can trim to any size that you want, and I've had this in my studio for years and I never use it. For me I didn't have to go out and buy anything new. This will be perfect for making my artwork three-dimensional. So for example, I will just take a tiny little snip. You've removed the backing, and then you would put it on your flower, then you would place it somewhere and it would be raised. So it wouldn't be flat against the paper. It would be a little bit elevated. Am not going to stick it down quite yet, because I'm not ready. But my point is, I didn't go out and buy this, this is something that I already had, I've had for years. So for me this is a good way to not necessarily reuse something, but to make good use of the supply as I already have. If you don't have something like this in your stash, that's totally okay. Go grab one of your cardboard boxes, one of your many cardboard boxes you have from online orders, Amazon or something like that. You can use a box cutter or a good pair of scissors, and you can make your own little elevated. See it's about the same height, width as my phone. So it's a great option and a good way to re-purpose something that is just going to get discarded. What you can do to make it stick to your paper and the flower, obviously this is a big piece of cardboard, so you'd need it to be a larger flower, is I have some of this crafters tape which you just roll on, and it gives some adhesive to the cardboard. You'd stick on your flower, add a little more, and then stick it onto your paper. You can also use glue, or even if you don't have anything like this, you can just use some scotch tape, roll it up like you did in elementary school, you could use some double-sided tape. I like these because I can bind refills as opposed to throwing out individual tape dispensers all the time. Just another way to try and keep your waste down. If you don't have some of this foam tape, you can definitely make your own with some spare cardboard and a little bit of tape or glue. A glue stick will work just fine tip. You also might want to a pair of tweezers if you are using small pieces of art like I am, some of these are really small. It might help to place them with tweezers. Let me show you what I have in mind. This is probably a more difficult project for people who have commitment issues, because there's just endless combinations of what you could do. I'm going to have way too many elements for this tiny five-by-seven piece of paper. But basically, we are just going to try layering these elements in different ways to get a beautiful new floral arrangement. What I would suggest is you want to have a base layer that is not elevated. So I'll be using my crafters tape. Then you can start to add in more layers of dimension with your tape or your cardboard. So right here I only have one layer of tape, or one layer of cardboard. But you could technically double things up or triple things up to give it more height and more depth from your paper. I'm going to go ahead and start playing around with my initial pieces. I think I'm going to save this one, it has a really pretty shadow and I might want to have that one to be elevated. But for my base, I'm probably going to do a couple of these leaves, and then a few flowers. There's no right or wrong way. Like I said, you could do this for hours. It's therapeutic, honestly. I like to start with a layer of leaves to give it a good base, and then you can go in with some flowers. You can see, I haven't attached anything yet. But I'm just getting an idea of where I might want things to go. So this is a very delicate piece like the fern. I definitely want to highlight this with dimension. So I'm going to save this one for towards the end. I also have some of these cute little berries, might look cute tucked in. Might be a little too yellow. So once you start piecing it together, you can decide if your color scheme is working, you might need to go back and cut out some more flowers, or whatever elements that you have that you're working with. But there's no rhyme or reason. Just playing with it to see how things look. I think I'm liking how this is going, so I'm going to get started. I'm going to pull these off, and I'm going to attach these pieces. I am going to start with this pretty ginkgo leaf. [MUSIC] Let's see. Look like that one better. I'm going to go ahead and put that right there. It's pretty. Then I also have this tucked in, I'll do that you that as well. It's okay if some things get a little covered up, it'll just look more natural and beautiful. I think I'm going to save this piece to go right there towards the end, because I just think that's so cute. I think what I'll do first before I attach it to the paper, is I'm going to elevate this center part. I might have made that too big, let's see. It's looking nice. You can even fold things a little bit, so they come away from the paper a little more. Give it a little more of an organic feel, and that's like your curling the paper. It makes this leaf pop-up, which I like. I am going to save this one for going up here. Maybe up this way, we've got a good flow going. I have this line up here, your eye follows it down here, which is a nice thing to pay attention to when you're composing. [MUSIC] I'm going to make this piece taller than one layer. But I need to make them pretty small, since it's a really delicate, tiny little piece. Well that's so lovely, I love that. Before it was just a simple watercolor wash, and a bunch of individual flowers just sitting in my drawer for years. Now it's got a new life, and you can even see, okay, that might look better that way. Horizontal. I actually really like how that looks. You can just play around with it and see which way you like, and you can keep adding to it if it needs a little something. But really it's just a great way to reuse things that you already have in your office, and to create something beautiful out of something tired and old. So let's go ahead and finish to get this in its frame. Then I can't wait to see what you guys have come up with re-purposing your old artwork. 7. Final Thoughts: Thank you so much for joining me with this class. It was kind of a passion project for me to talk about ways that we can better impact the world around us. I hope that you'll take this chance to make something beautiful and new out of something old and tired that you might have laying around your art studio. I hope that you'll also think about ways that you can improve what you're leaving behind in your personal life. Whether that means taking your own food to work in glass containers or if that means switching up plastic straws for reusable ones. Whatever it is that you can do can really help make an impact it all starts with small baby steps. Hopefully you've enjoyed this project. I really loved making this for my grandma. I think she's kind of like getting it in the mail. Then this new piece of artwork is kind of hanging right in front of me as I work. I'm going to hang it up right now and I already love it. It's just as a good reminder that we can make beautiful things out of things that are just laying around our house. Thank you for joining me and please share your project with me in the project section below. Whether you follow along and make a collage or a greeting card, or whether you make something totally different and new with something else that you have laying around. I want to hear about it. Go ahead and hit follow on my SKILLSHARE channel and you'll be notified when new classes are posted and we'll be able to keep in touch. I always make sure to communicate with my students as best as that I can and I'm happy to answer any questions or comments. And you can also find me on Instagram @emeraldandivystudios. 8. BONUS! Quick Ways to Reduce Waste at Home or Work: True to my word, I'm going to share with you a couple quick little tips you can implement in your life, that really have nothing to do with art, but all to do with helping the Earth. Chances are, you're taking some of these items with you to work, and just by switching them out, you can make a really big difference every year. The most obvious and easiest one for me is to switch out plastic water bottles for a reusable cup. I have several of them. Actually, my husband accuses me of having a cup hoarding problem, but these are great because they're reusable, you don't have to throw them out after each use, and they can keep your drinks nice and hot, or nice and cold. The other really quick switch and I'm sure you've been hearing a lot about if you live in the United States, is trying to decrease our plastic use, especially with straws. Straw waste contributes a lot to the plastic pollution in our oceans. So, switch out these bad boys for some of these. They're stainless steel with silicone toppers and you can get them in different sizes. These will fit with my reusable cup if you want to have it with a smoothie, but that's just a really quick tip and something you guys can do, to improve your footprint on the Earth as you're traveling to and from work.