John Sabraw paints with pigments from toxic water

John Sabraw makes art from pigments obtained from acid mine drainage in USA, and paints to raise awareness of the problem, and their solution: to turn the ugly into the beautiful.

For decades, pollution from abandoned underground coalmines has been killing aquatic life in waterways. This high concentration of acid and heavy metals is called acid mine drainage, or ‘AMD’, and pollutes over 1,300 miles of streams in Ohio alone. Some of these AMD polluting mine seeps release over one million gallons of toxic water each day. There is so much pollution in this water it’s like junking two cars a day into a stream.

John Sabraw and a team of artists, engineers, watershed specialists and students has developed a process that intercept this pollution, extract the heavy metal (iron oxide) and turn it into stunning pigments and paints, and then return the clean and safe water back to the stream, restoring aquatic life. The collected pigment is fired at different temperatures to make new colors. The pigment can then be blended with different binders to make oil, acrylic, watercolor and other paints.

Artist John Sabraw was born in Lakenheath, England. An activist and environmentalist, Sabraw’s paintings, drawings and collaborative installations are produced in an eco conscious manner, and he continually works toward a fully sustainable practice. He collaborates with scientists on many projects, and one of his current collaborations involves creating paint and paintings from iron oxide extracted in the process of remediating polluted streams.