Artist’s Sketchbook: How to make art out of junk

Creating an artistic masterpiece can be as easy as playing with a hunk of junk. Since I get so much joy out of my own recycled creations, I am passing my secrets along to you.

How to Make Art out of Junk

Busted PVC pipe/Photo and art Ryn Gargulinski

Busted PVC pipe/Photo and art Ryn Gargulinski

Obtain junk. Visit your local salvage yard, such as Gerson’s Used Building Materials, or scout for random debris in washes, alleys, riverbeds and on the side of Ajo Way.

Scrape and hose.
Get a paint scraper, sand paper, metal files, scouring pads or whatever else you want to use to scrape off rust, dust and caked-on mystery substances. Hose down for good measure.

Allow to percolate. Throw the debris in random areas around your yard, making the place a virtual minefield for your pets, guests and your own bare feet. This allows the junk to dry in the blazing sun and, if it’s metal, soak up enough heat to leave searing burns if you dare touch it at high noon.

Leave the junk there for days, weeks or months until you are so sick of tripping over and looking at it that you either transform it into something or throw it in the ever-growing slush pile. Caution: pack rats love the slush pile.

Slush pile/Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Slush pile/Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Coddle and paint. Coddling is a highly technical artist term that refers to kicking, denting, snipping, wiring, welding and otherwise getting the item into some type of shape that works to the piece you envisioned during the percolation stage. You know what painting is.

Mark at some ridiculous price.
The final step in your piece’s transformation is to mark it way up. Folks are not going to pay $5 for a lump of twisted metal. If you mark that same lump to $500, however, they will realize it is art and willingly shell out the cash to own such a masterpiece.

While I generally keep my prices reasonable, I will mark up items for this example. Busted PVC pipe: $379.50; Snazzy Totem Pole: $999.99; Dark Theater Shrine: $8,056. I’ll also let the slush pile go for $1.2 million.

BEFORE: Junky wine rack/Photo Ryn Gargulinski

BEFORE: Junky wine rack/Photo Ryn Gargulinski

AFTER: Snazzy totem pole/Photo and artwork Ryn Gargulinski

AFTER: Snazzy Totem Pole/Photo and artwork Ryn Gargulinski

BEFORE: Decaying fire place grate/Photo Ryn Gargulinski

BEFORE: Decaying fireplace grate/Photo Ryn Gargulinski

AFTER: Dark theater shrine/Photo and artwork Ryn Gargulinski

AFTER: Dark Theater Shrine/Photo and artwork Ryn Gargulinski


Dark theater shrine/Photo and artwork Ryn Gargulinski

Dark theater shrine/Photo and artwork Ryn Gargulinski

Have you ever transformed junk into art?

Have you ever transformed art into junk?


About Rynski

Writer, artist, performer who specializes in the weird, wacky and sometimes creepy. Learn more at
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6 Responses to Artist’s Sketchbook: How to make art out of junk

  1. radmax says:

    Mornin’ Rynski. Thats all there is to it? No inspiration, looking at a piece of twisted scrap and realising it was meant to be a skull or an attractive lady gecko? 🙂 You make it sound so easy. (Bet it ain’t) Awesome art Ryn.

  2. Rynski says:

    Mornin’ RadMax! Well, it’s all inspiration. From the moment you touch the piece of debris you are infusing it with artistic energy and it, too, is talking to you. While it percolates, the communication grows until you both are screaming for it to be transformed. I would have added that as a step but the last time I tried to explain something like that, the editor sent it back with: “Huh? What do you mean the thing “talks” to you?” At least I think it’s the junk talking, maybe the voices are instead coming from demons or my dog. At least they are not telling me to kill my neighbors like Son of Sam (haha).
    Anyway, glad you like the art! Attractive lady geckos are my one of my favorite creations, as long as they are named Gertie! Thanks for comment, as always.

  3. azmouse says:

    They look cool. I love the wine rack.

    I used to love to hit yard sales to find cool stuff to redo, and it’s still hard for me to pass up cool junk left out for the big, bulky trash pick-up. At this stage of my life I have so much stuff, I’m trying to learn to let it go.

    Of course, most of us don’t have your artistic abilities, Ryn. I have to say, the eyes on your artwork are pretty intense. They have allot of emotion that comes through their eyes.

  4. Rynski says:

    Hiya AZMouse,
    So glad to hear you are a fellow junk collector (haha). Yes, things can pile up rather quickly. I purged hugely when I was moving around. Just got sick of hauling the stuff.
    Eyes are my favorite trait on my art. Eyes and teeth. What else do you need? haha.

  5. azmouse says:

    I also occasionally notice some of your artwork resembles you! lol
    Adds a personal touch.

  6. Rynski says:

    that’s too funny, AZM!
    thanks for noticing. my little logo, in fact, is a self portrait.

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