The brayer rolled the acrylic paint on a big, good-paper drawing pad to clean it. A mumble ran through the class.
“You shouldn’t be using good drawing paper to clean off the brayer,” said one person. (A brayer is a roller used to apply paint evenly, and without brush marks, often to large sections of paper.)
“That’s what a phone book is for,” said another, helpfully.
“Or a stack of newspaper,” added a third.
They were all right, of course, we are taught to “clean” a brayer between color applications, and doing it on an old phone book (remember those?) is one way to get rid of excess paint. Except a brayer is not just a tool for spreading paint. It’s the creator’s tool for accidental art—backgrounds, layers, textures.
When I’m applying paint on Gelli Plates, the extra color on the brayer needs to go someplace–but I don’t want to waste it, or the color combinations, or the backgrounds I could get from leftover paint. On newspaper or a phone book, it mixes with the cheaper soy inks and makes a pile of muddy-colored discard papers.
On the other hand, if I brayer off on a good piece of paper, it becomes a background, or a piece that can be torn up for a collage.
Here’s a nice accidentally textured background, using watercolor paper that has a texture already in the paper.
This layer of brayer background can become a good place for a stencil, making an instant page that can be used as is, for a card, or for a journal page. I can also tear it up for collage.
Best of all, I don’t have to know right now, today, what I will use this for. It’s in a pad of paper that has a masking-tape label that says “brayer roll.”
Other people buy wallpaper sample books. I use brayer-roll papers.
Which brings me to a metaphor–a lesson I learn in art and bring over to the rest of life. When I mentioned to several trainer colleagues that I sometimes talk about art on my site, they were horrified. “You should never mention you write poetry or do collage. That will rule you out as a trainer.” Really? In a world where training is turning (eagerly) to design thinking and gamification of classes, the very last thing a company needs is a trainer without imagination. Without creativity. Without willingness to risk.
Here’s the jump: Discards are only discards if we throw them out. I throw out trash. If I label it as trash, it becomes trash. But discards are pieces I call “save for later.” They don’t have to be thrown out. They have something of their own to offer. Maybe not right now, but with a different project. A different perspective.
Accidents can become fresh starts. And that’s as true of art as in other parts of life. Don’t be so quick to bury your past, it brought you to where you are today.
–Quinn McDonald makes use of the layers of her life. She is a writer who teaches business writing. She is also a certified creativity coach.