Earth-friendly art from surprising recycled materials

Cassandra Tondro uses repurposed acrylic latex paint to create visual masterpieces like her “Flowing Forest”

Artist Marc Chagall said “Great art picks up where nature ends.”

In May I attended the Women of the Green Generation conference in Los Angeles. Among the fascinating showcases was an artist who’s work utilized unusual earth-friendly materials to create unique works of beauty.

A successful full-time painter for the past twelve years, Cassandra Tondro made some might have considered a radical change five years ago. Turning away from working with standard acrylic paints, she began working with repurposed “reject” paint.  “Mistint” is the name given to latex house paint that’s custom mixed but that didn’t come out right and cannot be resold at full price. “Oops” paint is then often sold at deeply discounted rates to customers.

Tondro discovered this medium from an artist friend who was using it and has since embraced it in her work.

She’s learned to like using latex paints, especially because they’re eco-friendly. And she discovered recycling centers in her southern California area where she could get plenty of the stuff for free!

But the changeover took some getting used to, she said.

Acrylic paints are more transparent, Tondro said. She had to learn a different way of working with latex paints.

“It takes a lot of time to get something looking good,” said Tondro.

But the benefits are worth it.

Tondro’s Leaf Monoprints utilize fallen leaves and other natural materials

Her paintings with latex are more durable than her acrylic paintings were. They don’t fade and they don’t scratch easily.

Tondro is a trailblazer in her profession.

A lot of artists are used to working with different materials, she said.

“It’s hard to change your style,” said Tondro, especially since you can’t get the same look with latex as you can with oil or acrylic.

Working with latex, she said, “you’re starting at ground zero.”

Tondro’s work reflects the elegance of her success.

Her collection includes breathtaking paintings and diptychs (a series of two-part panel paintings). A number of corporations have purchased and hung her paintings, placing them in a row, down a hallway.

As innovative as it is, latex isn’t the only medium Tondro works with.

After learning about a woman artist in Australia who does “eco prints” with naturally fallen leaves and other natural materials on silk and canvas, Tondro decided to try her hand at it, using watercolor paper.

She’d always been interested in natural dyeing, and creating her Leaf Monoprints seemed a perfect fit.

Tondro’s monoprints are singularly unique works of fine art.

People tend to love them, she said, especially at her shows. Galleries don’t yet know what to do with them, being slower perhaps to recognize the new medium. Tondro sells more of these beautiful pieces to individuals, she said.

Creating Leaf Monoprints is seasonal work, since the colored leaves can only be collected throughout the Fall. And many of these prints are in a variety of earth tones due, Tondro says, to the fact that although people like bright colors, long-lasting colors like blues, reds and purples are difficult to get from natural materials.

People love to hear how she makes her natural masterpieces, Tondro says.

Stacking leaves in-between the watercolor paper, then weighing it all down with bricks, Tondro then puts it all in a large, 14- by 18-inch commercial flat roasting pan. She then uses hot plates to heat it with steam. This transfers the colors and patterns of the leaves onto the paper. Art and Nature then fuse into one exquisite experience.

A Tondro commission diptych, made with repurposed acrylic latex paint

Tondro now only uses latex paint and the leaves, she said.

“It’s possible to do art in various ways that’s sustainable,” said Tondro. “We can get away from (using) toxic materials.”

Another fascinating element to her work is that it complements L.E.E.D. certification projects, which she works a great deal with. Because her work enhances sustainable design, it qualifies for LEED credits.

“They want eco-friendly art,” she said.

Tondro does custom commissions for residential settings, corporations, healthcare facilities and individuals.

She’s currently working on a custom 36 x 48  piece for an oil company in Dallas. Their walls are painted bright colors and the company sent her the leftover paint to use.

Tondro now offers her lovely leaf monographs and prints of her paintings in greeting card form, available as single cards or in packages of 10. They’re available online at To find out more about her larger and/or custom pieces, visit


One Response

  1. What do you think to Rio + 20 themes? According to a lot of people Rio 20 did not achieve anything except political grandstanding. No agreements, no way forward, and some key nations did not even turn up. Sure it creates a focal point for issues and gets awareness out there, and nations will proceed as they are, some championing these causes, some not. As far as I am aware a global consensus is non-existant. Can’t wait until the next one when they all sit down to talk about what needs to happen, and the next, and the next. I think the whole approach may be wrong. A and B should simply be combined to say a ‘Sustainable Global Economy’ and definitions around it should include a ‘transition’ to a renewable energy global economy and maintenence of ecosystem function at a level to sustain human survial and wellbeing. For those interested in seeking a career in sustainable development, renewable energy or environment jobs pay a visit to a reliable and regularly updated source for finding green jobs across the globe from some of the leading employers around the world.

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