Beach Trash Art
For a number of years starting from 2005-2014 with several art and educational projects between then and now, I have been creating art using paint and beach trash. Some artworks were small, a collage of trash made into different scenes set into shadow boxes. Some were very large, made into public art pieces by me, schoolteachers and their K-6sth grade students. The purpose of my artwork is/was to bring awareness of the problems created by discarded plastic and other pollutants that end up in our oceans. When I began, little was known about plastic ocean pollution. Now, people around the world are doing something about it although the problem has continued to vastly expand. When I started gathering trash from the beaches, there was enough to easily collect 3-4 bags full, as much as I could carry, each time I walked the beach, which was several times a week. Now, I’m glad to say, the same beaches are almost always free of trash, thanks to the many who clean them every day.
As for continued efforts for our oceans, there is National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Surfrider, 5 Gyres, EDF, Washed Ashore, and numerous nonprofits plus everyday people working hard to tackle this problem. Many of the shadow box art pieces I created were donated to Surfrider, Captain Charles Moore’s Algita.org, San Diego Coastkeeper, and The Living Coast Discovery Center, for their fundraising events. The large whale with 6 panels, made by 1st graders and their teachers from Jefferson Elementary School in Carlsbad, is hanging in the hallway by San Diego Coastkeeper in Liberty Station, San Diego. The many murals I painted for The Living Coast Discovery Center were created for visitors to attached beach trash too. Some were painted by children at the LCDC summer camp where I taught about ocean pollution and art. The latest piece I created, the large mural with two turtles, was created for the World Wildlife Fund’s Panda Paddle event in San Diego. It is 8’ x 8’ and now hangs in the WWF Washington DC office.
If you are inclined to create a shadow box or canvas artwork using plastic beach trash, here are my suggestions:
1. Wearing gloves, collect colorful pieces of beach trash.
2. Wash/soak the trash with soap and a weak bleach solution, then let it dry.
3. Paint a background on canvas, board, or even cardboard.
4. Glue the trash to the chosen backing. Use a glue gun (careful, very hot - but it works) or EB6000, (sticky and you will have to hold the piece you are gluing in place for a few minutes). IMPORTANT: Only an adult will do the gluing. White glue will not adhere to the plastic.
5. Have fun! Share your creations on my Facebook page!
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