The smattering of paint left over on an artist’s palette when an artwork is completed is usually washed away before it dries, with scant regard for the environment. But a West Auckland painter with a conscience – and a penchant for experimentation – is keeping it green. His novel way of recycling leftover paint has proved a winner and his artworks are much in demand.
A former maths teacher with a background in science, Mark Whyte is currently one of the artists involved in painting murals and the power transformers in West Auckland using Resene paints. In the 1980s, he became concerned about the heavy metals he was flushing away when cleaning his palette. "While there are now more environmentally friendly paints, back then oil-based and even acrylic artist paints contained lead, cadmium, titanium and cobalt. I didn’t feel comfortable with them going back into the environment."
So Mark started scraping paint off his palettes and storing the chips in a box. The leftover paint accumulated in his studio during the years. “There was no real way of disposing it safely and I had no idea what I wanted to do with it.”
While cleaning out his studio in 2003, he started cutting up the old paint chips with scissors and discovered the colours were still vibrant.
I became interested in re-using them. It just seemed wasteful not to. Initially I thought about sculpting with them. Then I tried making two dimensional images of human likenesses. I took the finished artworks to the Aro Street Gallery in Wellington where I was exhibiting and they proved really popular.”
Using large paint scrapings at first, Mark admits his technique was fairly crude. Then he began to experiment with smaller chips using a selection of fine-tipped dental tools, fine screwdrivers, tiny blades and magnifying glasses. Mark collated a sea of 70 tiny 100mm x 150mm artworks showing people’s faces from many cultural backgrounds for an exhibition at the Corbans Estate Gallery in Henderson. “Just like the paint chips, everyone is different. But like paint chips, we are all different in the same way, which makes us all alike,” he explains.
They looked interesting, he says, “because the chips create a slightly three dimensional effect. As you move around them, they reflect the light back and the faces become animated.”
Although his artworks are growing in size, Mark has had several more exhibitions using a similar technique. He regularly exhibits at the Corban Estate Gallery in West Auckland or phone Mark on 021 179 2932.
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