Art of Disappearing

“The Art of Disappearing” is one of only several poems I understand and that speaks to me.

Solitary Koi • Pastel on Watercolor Paper • 10″ x 14″

With summer, unfortunately, heading to an end, this is the time to enjoy the beautiful days we have left. Vacations, time with the children, lazy days at the park, beach and pool, BBQ’s and school shopping make the days fly by without a thought.

Most people love summer and the slower pace of life. Most people. But when you are an artist and all of these additional social engagements keep you from your paint and easel, you have a real problem. The fact that many art shows happen in September doesn’t help. I find myself busy at the easel trying to get ready for two major shows while wishing I could be outside. It’s easier to carve out time for art when children are occupied by school and sports, and people are in a routine.

This poem, The Art of Disappearing, was written by Naomi Shihab Nye and found in her book: “Words Under the Words.” It does a great job explaining my thoughts and feelings about being interrupted while trying to paint or do anything else that’s productive.


The Art of Disappearing

by Naomi Shihab Nye


When they say Don’t I know you?

say no.


When they invite you to the party

remember what parties are like

before answering.

Someone telling you in a loud voice

they once wrote a poem.

Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.

Then reply


If they say

We should get together

say why?


It’s not that you don’t love them anymore.

You’re trying to remember something

too important to forget.

Trees. The monastery bell at twilight.

Tell them you have a new project.

It will never be finished.


When someone recognizes you in a grocery store

nod briefly and become a cabbage.


When someone you haven’t seen in ten years

appears at the door,

don’t start singing him all your new songs.

You will never catch up.


Walk around feeling like a leaf.

Know you could tumble any second.

Then decide what to do with your time.

Keeping Your Acrylic Studio Green: Dirty Water Disposal

The main medium you work in determines many things about your studio: size, lighting, flooring, brushes, solvents and additives. In my previous post, I wrote about the special issues surrounding oil paints. There are cross over issues in an acrylic studio but acrylics do present some specific problems. When working with acrylics, keep in mind that they are, basically, a polymer-based plastic. Pouring acrylic paint down your studio sink will leave paint deposits along the pipes and can eventually affect your entire plumbing system, slowing down the water flow and clogging up drains.

The most important product in your studio . . . paper towels!

I buy the paper towels that have the smaller divisions. Because I use so many of them, I unroll half of the roll, tear each sheet off, and lay it on top of the pile. When I’m done, I take most of those half-sheets and tear them in half. Unless you’ve made a really big mess, you don’t need a whole sheet. This saves you money.

Use paper towels to clean reusable containers. Before starting to rinse your brushes, be sure to wipe off all the paint possible with a paper towel and run lots of water during cleaning so any acrylic on the brush is diluted. This applies to all gels, pastes

A small mesh strainer for small amounts

and additives as well.

Proper Paint Disposal

There are times when you just have a small container of dirty water. I keep a small mesh strainer in the studio for that. Particles of acrylic that end up in the strainer can be wiped out with a paper towel. For large amounts of dirty water, you may want to make yourself the following filtration system.

Making a simple paint strainer

You will need:

  • A metal bucket
  • A second plastic bucket large enough that the metal one can fit in about 3 inches
  • An old pair of pantyhose

The lower, plastic, catch bucket and the top, metal, bucket to strain through

Take your metal bucket and drill large holes in the bottom of it. You can use a hammer and nail to create holes but they have to be large

Metal Bucket with drilled holes

enough that acrylic waste can get through them. You want water and particles of acrylic material to go through the holes.

The second bucket is for the water to go into. The metal bucket has to be able to sit inside of the second bucket. If the metal bucket sits too close to the top, the water will spill over and make a mess. If it’s too close to the bottom, the water won’t be able to drain through. I use one of those jumbo plastic popcorn buckets theaters give out for special releases like Toy Story and Shrek.

Put the bottom of the metal bucket with the holes into the top of the pantyhose. Tie the legs together into a big knot underneath.

Now, when you pour dirty acrylic water into the metal bucket, the water flows through the pantyhose and small pieces of acrylic paint, gel and medium are trapped in the nylons. The water that collects in the plastic bucket underneath should not be thrown down the sink even though it is cleaner than it would have been. It is still going to have acrylic sludge in the bottom. Instead, place the bottom bucket outside so the water can evaporate.

The pantyhose tied under the metal bucket

If you have acrylic particles and sludge to deal with, add it to dirty kitty litter. If you don’t have a cat, kitty

The strained, dirty water

litter is not very expensive. It’s absorbent and controls odors. (According to medical people I have spoken with, discarding old, expired, medication in dirty kitty litter is a good idea as well.)

I plan to revisit this topic of keeping a green studio in the months to come. If you have a question or studio practice that you’d like to share, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me directly from the “Contact” page.

Do you have other ideas on keeping your studio green? I’d love to hear from you. I accept guest blogs on other subjects as well.


Happy painting,

Susan L Stewart