Office Supply Art

When you spend most of the day surrounded by office supplies, it's easy to overlook them. Pencils and paper clips can easily remain unnoticed until they happen to go missing when you need them most. One of the defining characteristics of a true artist is being able to make the most out of available resources, no matter how limited those resources might be. The artists we look at here took the abundant supplies they saw every day and turned them into stunning works.

Paper Flame

With the advent of digital tools in the workplace, many prominent businesses have taken steps to make their offices as paper-free as possible. This is often done to expedite the exchange of files, as well as promote the company as having "gone green." Still, many companies are unable to afford making the switch to being completely digital. Paper remains an important element in modern business.

man holding flame to painting
Image via Buzzfeed.

Stephen Spazuk began incorporating fire into his art in 2001. To create the initial primer images, he uses carefully controlled flames—usually with methane candles—on acid-free paper. He then completes the images with light brushes or pencils before spraying the final image with varnish to preserve the flame's soot. Says Spazuk, "When I put the flame to paper, I don't know what I'm going to get, and that's the pure joy of working with soot."

Message Received

Post-It notes are one of the most ubiquitous office supplies. They offer a fine way to remind oneself or others of work that needs to be done. With their bright color scheme and adhesiveness, it's easy to see why they're often used by artists as a means of self-expression in an otherwise mundane office setting. That's the sort of inspiration that struck a Japanese architect in 2001.

colorful building made of Post-Its
Image via mental_floss.

Yo Shimada had a point he wanted to make about structural integrity, so he decided to use Post-It notes as paper building blocks for a construction demonstration. With the help of students from the Kyoto University of Art and Design, Shimada spent three days turning more than thirty thousand Post-Its into a carefully constructed "brick" wall. Though the wall has long since come down, images of it continue to be popular among architects and casual viewers alike.

Office Ink

Office buildings frequently vary in shape and structure, but not often in color. Since the materials used—brick, mortar, metal, glass—don't generally lend themselves to eclectic color schemes, one rarely sees the equivalent of a Lisa Frank design on a building's exterior. Nevertheless, one Southern California business has used the illusion of an artistic faux pas on its building as one of the business's defining traits.

mural titled Technicolor Ooze
Image via designboom.

Artist Jen Stark was given carte blanche when she was commissioned to design the exterior artwork for Platform, a business hub in Culver City, CA. Representatives of the building wanted something that would stand out from all the surrounding buildings, and knew that the Los Angeles-based artist would do just that. Stark's mural, dubbed "Technicolor Ooze," is a carefully designed image that gives the illusion of various colors of paint dripping down the side of the Platform building. Although it may appear to be a work gone horribly wrong, the mural has become the calling card for Platform's standing out from the competition.

Memorandum

Just because worker efficiency is coveted in an office environment doesn't mean creativity should be discouraged. The average workday provides plenty of opportunities to express yourself artistically if you know where to look and don't ignore your responsibilities. Let productivity be the goal, and creativity be the reward.

The Future: Foldable and Functional

It’s hard to say which invention came first, the paper airplane or the real thing. Did some poor soul suffering from boredom folded a piece of paper to mimic an actual airplane, or did aerodynamic pioneers create paper models as prototypes? It may be easier to create an artistic rendition of a functioning device, but that doesn’t mean the rendition has to remain unable to function. The following stories prove that one doesn’t need state-of-the-art technology to create a workable piece of machinery.

Paper Pictures

From tourists to traffic stops, it seems every step we take these days is captured on a camera. Cameras are now standard on mobile devices. As the lenses get smaller, and the images more detailed, it's easy to forget the long journey image-capturing technology has taken. One inventive designer took such an interest in that history she decided to write a book about it.

cameras
Image via designboom.

Kelli Anderson’s book, This Book is a Camera, is one of the few literary works whose titles can be taken literally. In addition to explaining the process of pinhole photography—a method that hasn’t been regularly employed since the nineteenth century—the pages of the book itself fold into a working pinhole camera. Although the book isn’t likely to replace any top-of-the-line electronic model, it serves as a contemporary adaptation of a method that paved the way for the devices we use every day.

Cardboard Beats

For nearly 70 years, the Fender brand has served as the worldwide standard for electric guitars and has become a staple of rock music. The guitars can be found everywhere from suburban garages to the stages of sold-out arenas. After decades of refining their design and function, the builders wanted to see if they could actually build a fully functioning model out of packing material. The experiment was a treat for the eyes and ears alike.

cardboard rock guitars 
Image via mental_floss.

The Fender team visited the packing plant for Signal Snowboards, in Los Angeles, in hopes of trying their experiment with high-quality materials. The result was Fender Stratocaster, made entirely from cardboard except for its strings and electrical attachments. The guitar is just one of many cardboard designs from Signal.

Souped-Up at Six Millimeters

Some people can go their entire life without looking under the hood of a car, secure in the belief that the engine is functioning properly. But the intricacies of a six-hundred-pound V8 engine are not lost on those who have popped the hood. The complex design has powered hot rods for nearly a century with barely any decrease in size—until, that is, one creative designer made one no bigger than his thumb.

6-millimeter engine model
Image via Gizmodo.

Craftsman Aliaksei Zholner decided to have some fun with the design of the engine, and built one out of paper and glue. The six-millimeter model of the engine features a side handle that allows the person holding it to turn the small gears inside.

Designing Dreams

The above examples give one a glimpse into the creative process. So many of history’s great inventions started with someone examining something ordinary, making a few adjustments, and tapping into a need.

Tiny Masterpieces

For centuries, scholars and commoners alike have debated what defines the word "art." Is the distinction between what is and isn't art made by financial valuation? Do people need to have training in order for their work to be considered legitimate art? Are artists truly artists if their work is not their sole occupation? These questions and more have kept history's greatest minds awake at night.

Still, if there's one thing humanity has proven throughout its existence, it's that there's no limit to the type of canvas people can use for their art. From etchings on cave walls to galleries of the modern metropolis, our species has shown its boundless creativity by designing with whatever materials are available and on whatever canvas can be found.

By the Spoonful

All parents have told their children at one time or another not to play with their food. Ioana Vanc was told the same thing growing up as a child in Romania, but her artistic sensibilities were hardly reined in. Now an adult and a professional artist, she has taken her messy childhood habit and turned it into a hobby that has brought her worldwide recognition.

zebras on a teaspoon
Image via Ioana.

Using nothing more than the most minimal of food scraps, Vanc creates colorful landscapes and recognizable portraits on the surface of a teaspoon. Her works include zebras in an open plain, as well as likenesses of celebrities Karl Lagerfeld, Iris Apfel, and even Kermit the Frog. Regular updates to Vanc's gallery can be found by following her Instagram page. They make for some of the more interesting food pictures one can find on the site.

Petri Paintings

With art being such a deeply ingrained part of the human experience, it isn't very far-fetched to think that artistic urges might be part of the very building blocks of our existence. Similarly, it isn't too great a stretch to imagine those very building blocks becoming works of art themselves. The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) recently launched the first-ever Agar Art competition, inviting challengers to use microorganisms and mold to create art pieces that fit inside of petri dishes.


Petri dish
Image via Hyperallergic.

The above stories show how, more often than not, art adheres more to vision than to tool or format. All it takes is a little imagination to transform something ordinary into something truly inspiring.

Artwork You Can Print Out and Hang on Your Wall -- M.C. Escher

A print of a classic work of visual art from your HP laser printer is a great way to liven up your surroundings at home or the office. Many large high-resolution reproductions of iconic photographs, paintings, drawings and prints can be found with a quick search on Google Images, and they can be resized to handily print out on an 8-1/2 x 11 sheet of photo paper or coverstock.  For monochrome prints, you will achieve the best results from a laser printer versus an inkjet printer.  To print color artwork, a photo inkjet printer will produce a better quality piece.

This month, we are going to take a quick look at the work of one of the most gifted and influential artists to come from the Netherlands, M.C. Escher. More...

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