Water in its many forms, including ice, snow and clouds, is a subject I am working on a number of paintings of. The flow of water through it’s various states is connected to the flow of everything- energy, time, even the flow of life and death, the cycling of atoms through the universe. It isn’t just symbolic water, though, it’s one of the most fundamental elements of life itself, which is why protecting the water is so important right now. If ordinary citizens don’t take a stand to protect the water, then nobody will.
Focusing on water in my work, and writing in my blog about water, makes me more aware of doing what I can to reduce pollution. In comparison to the horrific violence to the water system caused by hydraulic fracturing, pouring a bit of waste water, that I’ve used to keep my paint brushes clean, down the drain perhaps doesn’t make much of a measurable difference.
On the other hand, I choose to believe it does make a difference, from another point of view in which everything we do and everything we intend is connected. If I believe pouring that paint water down the drain, or not pouring it down the drain, really does add up to something, even something small that can add up to something big when joined by many other small things, than I can believe in a world in which one person can make a difference, when joined by many others who share a similar vision of a better future. A future in which there is enough collective public will to gradually phase out fossil fuels by creating a sustainable clean energy economy.
So, toward that vision of a better world, what do I do with my used paint water?
I used to throw it in a big plastic bucket that holds several gallons. This was based on the advice in one of my books about acrylics. Eventually, the theory is, the water will evaporate completely, and the paint can be peeled out of the bucket and thrown out. Or I suppose, made into some recycled craft if you’re going to be ambitious about it.
However I didn’t have room for more than one bucket, and it just got fuller and fuller, and never actually evaporated until I went on vacation. Meanwhile, although normally acrylic paint doesn’t smell of much of anything, when it’s sitting dissolved in a large open bucket of water over a period of weeks or months, it smells awful, and I had to live with that because my studio and the place where I live are not separate.
Now I have a better system. First of all, I realized I don’t need a full jar of water to wash my brushes in. Even if I’m painting with very light colours that can’t be muddied at all, it’s enough to clean a brush in a small amount of well used paint water, wipe it with a rag, and then clean it again in a small amount of fresh water.
When I’m done for the day, the water is poured out into several yogurt containers and pie tins. When the amount of water is shallow, it only takes a couple of days to evaporate. That way it goes back into the flow of the water system, completely purified.
The only problem with this is that I’m worried my cat Maizie will it drink out of these containers. It’s not really toxic though (since I no longer use cadmium colours) so she probably would not get too sick if she did, but I would still feel concerned. However so far as I can tell, she shows no interest in the paint water, other then sniffing at it a bit and then leaving it alone, since she always has fresh water in her water dish. She is not the sort of cat to do sneaky things when I’m not watching, since she would rather do them in front of me, such as rubbing against my feet and then violently clawing the carpet, right next to her scratching post.
There is a light side of water, such as being necessary to many tasty and healthful recipes. In my last blog post, I shared my recipe for green tea with fresh berries. So, I thought it would be a good idea to continue sharing what I am drinking while I’m painting.
This is my recipe for what is, in my opinion, the best hot chocolate. However it does have the best texture with a ton of cocoa powder in it, as opposed to a weak, wimpy amount of cocoa powder, so if you like weak and wimpy chocolate, perhaps substitute dairy or soya milk for part of the water to make it smoother.
For each serving, heat three quarters of a cup of water to just under a boil. Turn the heat down low and stir in two heaping tablespoons of pure cocoa powder, and sweetener, such as agave syrup or honey, to taste- I use only about a teaspoon, because the coconut milk has a lot of sweetness. When the cocoa and sweetener completely dissolved, add a quarter cup of coconut milk (note that coconut milk is the thick, creamy stuff that comes in a can, not coconut water, which would be awful in this recipe). Stir until it is mixed in completely, and voila.
This is a nice pick me up after being out walking around in fourty below weather, with a wind chill.