As an artist, I've always been drawn to the idea of breathing new life into old things. This holds especially true for my art. How can we transform something old that didn't quite pan out as expected into something fresh and vibrant? This question has guided much of my creative journey, leading me to discover a unique method of repurposing my art. I've found a way to repurpose my practice papers—the ones I used for painting and brainstorming—and transform them into something beautiful and entirely new.

Here’s how I transform practice paper into new creative projects, giving each piece a fresh start and a new purpose.

How It All Began

It was 2016 in NYC when I decided to take the plunge and pursue art full-time. That year, I dedicated myself to painting, spending hours every day for a whole year. As a result, I ended up with stacks of practice paper. Despite having a part-time job, money was tight. So, I started painting on both sides of the paper and discovered that it was surprisingly satisfying—it had a different feel, but I liked it.

One day, when someone bought one of my paintings (which were smaller pieces back then), I used a practice paper as packaging. I posted it on social media, and to my surprise, people loved it. I even noticed some of my followers doing the same.

Since then, my approach to repurposing paper has evolved, and I thought it would be nice to share my process.

Two different paintings that I cut; once I turn them, they will serve as new canvases. Here are the same sheets while I am painting something completely new. This eventually became a pattern that is now part of my art licensing portfolio.

Cutting and Flipping: A Fresh Start

The first step in my process is cutting the paper. I've grown to love working with square shapes because many of my repurposed pieces end up as patterns, and a square is just perfect for that. You can cut it into any shape you prefer, or leave it as is!

Once I have my squares, I flip the paper over. This gives me a clean, blank side to work on—almost like having a brand-new canvas. If I plan to use lots of water, sometimes I stretch the paper. It's nothing too complicated; using temporary adhesive spray or masking tape and a board is more than enough.

Starting Anew

With the blank side facing up, I begin painting once more. This step is all about exploration. The texture of the old paper feels familiar yet new in a way, aiding me in creating art with a fresh perspective.

Leaves Under the Dusk Moon,' 2024 - I created a completely new painting with layers of masking fluid and paint over a watercolor that didn't work out. You can see the full process on YouTube.

Once a painting has served its purpose as practice paper or for designing a pattern, I use it to write thank you notes or create beautiful packaging for my collectors.

I show how I paint this artwork in my online workshop: Painting Flowers No.1: Loose and Abstract.

Creating New Artwork

Another method is to leave the paper unflipped and repurpose the old painting with a fresh layer of paint or masking fluid. I recently shared a video on YouTube where I transformed a painting that didn't turn out as expected into a completely new piece.

Embracing Imperfection: Art Beyond Perfection

Did the second round not work out as planned? I bet you have a beautiful piece of paper filled with color and energy. Don't let it go to waste! When I send artworks to my collectors, I always use practice paper or repurposed sheets in the packaging. And you know what? Some customers have sent me these sheets framed! What might not be enough for you could be a masterpiece for someone else.

I also enjoy making cards, notes, and decorative items. There's a whole section about this in my book 'DIY Watercolor Christmas.' And if you ever join one of my in-person workshops, you'll see that we use lots of repurposed paintings.

The Joy of Repurposing Art

Repurposing my art has taught me to see potential in everything. It's a wonderful way to minimize waste and make use of what I already have, aligning perfectly with sustainable art practices. Beyond that, it's an enjoyable and imaginative endeavor.

Transforming old sketches into new art encourages me to view things from a different perspective and discover beauty in unexpected places.

Embrace the Journey of Transformation

Through recycling my practice papers, I've come to realize that art isn't just about the final product; it's also about the journey. Each piece tells a story of transformation. I want to inspire other artists to give this a try too. Instead of seeing your practice sheets as mistakes, view them as opportunities. Cut them, flip them over, and start afresh. You might be surprised at what you'll create.

So, why wait? Gather your old papers, scissors, and colors, and begin transforming them into new artworks. Embrace the joy of crafting something new from old sketches. And don't forget to share your creations with me—I'd love to see them!

May 31, 2024 — Ingrid Sanchez

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