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Abstract Art Ideas for Teens Using Recycled Materials

by Erica Loop, studioD

In 2010, people in the U.S. threw away more than 250 million tons of trash, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Instead of tossing everything that your family uses, recycle materials such as plastic bottles, containers and cardboard products into crafty creations. Your teen can make her own abstract art by reusing regular household items that, otherwise, would end up in the trash.

Crayon Iron Art

If you have cups or boxes of teeny tiny crayon bits left over from your younger child, give them to your teen to create colorfully creative abstract art. Unlike younger children who aren't ready yet to handle the responsibility of using a small appliance, most teens are able to use an iron in roughly the same manner as you can. Your teen can unwrap the ready-to-throw out crayon pieces and sandwich them in a random pattern between a folded piece of white construction paper. Fold a piece of newspaper around the white paper. Your teen can now gently run the iron, on a low setting, over the newspaper. Remove the iron and turn it off. Open the paper to reveal an abstract art masterpiece. Have your teen make recycled crayon art using one color scheme such as shades of green or try lining the crayons up in a more structured pattern.

Construction Sculpture

Your teen can turn all of those used soda or milk bottles into a bubble-like abstract sculpture. Abstract doesn't equal unplanned. Have your teen draw out a construction plan for his plastic bottle sculpture, marking the specific placement of each piece. Encourage him to think about the overall form and the use of space. Reuse an old piece of wood or the side of a thick cardboard box as a base. Your teen can build up his bottle sculpture art by gluing and taping each piece together. Add a layer of nontoxic craft paint to give the art piece a punch of color.

Reused Furniture

Save that old wooden chair that nobody sits in anymore from the garbage bin by recycling it into an abstract art activity. Place the chair on newspapers or a painters tarp to protect the ground underneath. Using nontoxic craft paints, have your child paint an abstract design on the entire surface of the chair. She can create a Jackson Pollock-type paint splatter design, a geometric pattern or a swirl of rainbow hues. Don't just have her paint the seat's surface; continue the art down each leg and up the back of the chair. For other similar projects, reuse an old end table or coffee table as prime painting surfaces.

Mixed Media Collage

Teens who aren't exactly expert artists might enjoy a mixed-media collage abstract activity. Gather a variety of items such as fabric scraps, gift wrap scraps, plastic bottle caps, ribbon, old papers and cardboard, which you can recycle into art materials. Cut a piece of reused cardboard into an 8-by-10 inch section or larger size to use as a base. Cut and glue the other objects onto the cardboard in a random abstract pattern. Add dots of paint on parts of the collage for an extra effect.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

  • Jeffrey Hamilton/Digital Vision/Getty Images