Phonebook Art: A Painting Meditation

“When there are thoughts, it is distraction: when there are no thoughts, it is meditation.”

-Ramana Maharshi

Phonebook Art | TinkerLab

When I was cleaning out my studio last week I came across a few phonebooks. I occasionally use them as scrap paper or throwaway sheets for printmaking, and decided that my 4-year old and I could have some fun painting on them.

We cleared some room on the table, took out our watercolors, and got busy.

Why Phonebooks are Great for Painting

  1. They are free! Woop!
  2. Because they’re free, they aren’t precious. And that’s great because it frees us up to go hog-wild and not worry one iota about ruining expensive paper.

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Why this is a Meditation

I’m trying to get into the practice of waking up early and taking in some quiet time to reflect, journal, and exercise. Today’s phonebook art project is an extension of that practice. Why? Meditation is the act or process of spending time in quiet thought (source). If you can turn off the inner critic, get into the zone of making, and have fun, this phonebook painting project can serve as a meditative act.

I’m a fan of Lou Reed, and I really like how he describes it:

Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated. What I do is about as simple as you can get. You could just count the beads, one, two, three, with your eyes closed or open, whatever makes you happy.”

Using phonebooks, a free, disposable medium, gives us the freedom to create without adding too much value to the end product. This allows us to consider the process more deeply and get into the moment of creating.

How to set this up

  1. Clear a large work space: a table, the floor, whatever works
  2. Rip a bunch of pages out of your phonebook and spread them around the table.
  3. Set up your materials: watercolors, a water jar, a rag (for cleaning/drying the brushes), brushes
  4. Turn on music (optional)
  5. Surround yourself with inspiration. Place inspiring photos or images nearby that can act as inspiration
  6. Paint! Be free, be quick, don’t worry about perfection

Recommended Paints

Pelikan Paints OpaqueWe used our Pelikan watercolor set (affliate). It’s a double-decker box with 24 colors. The colors are bright and the variety of hues is thrilling to me. And, bonus!, it’s currently 31% off.

See it in Action

Lovely idea for relaxation through art! Paint on phonebook pages. They're free, plentiful, and free you up to experiment.

Join me!

Do phonebooks still get delivered to your address? It surprises me that we get them, but I’m seeing it as a bonus. If you get phonebooks, join me by setting aside a few minutes to make some Phonebook Art.


  • Paint on it
  • Collage with it
  • Use it for paper making
  • Cut it up and sculpt with it
  • Use it for papier mache
  • Fold it into paper airplanes that go far.
  • Look on Instagram for #phonebookart and you’ll get some ideas

Lovely idea for relaxation through art! Paint on phonebook pages. They're free, plentiful, and free you up to experiment.

Other Things you can Make with Phonebooks

Make a beautiful garland with your kids, as seen on Art Bar Blog

Turn them into sculptures as Jonathan Callan did

Take a cue from Alex Queral and draw portraits on them

Make a wreath out of the pages, as seen on A Little Tipsy

Turn it into a Pencil Caddy, as seen on Chica and Jo

Make Paper Bows, as seen on How About Orange

After you make your phonebook art, post it to Instagram with the hashtag #phonebookart.

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  1. You mentioned that you use this as an exercise in meditation, but I think it’s a great activity for kids as well! Especially because it emphasizes the process rather than the end result, as you mentioned. It’s also a far more productive forum than, say, drawing on the walls (full disclosure: I used to draw on the walls all the time as a kid). It’s kind of funny, because I don’t think too many young kids have seen a phonebook since they’ve generally gone out of practice (I was a bit surprised when you mentioned that you still get phonebooks delivered to your address). A great way to turn something old and boring into something new and creative–worth saving with Keepy! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2utE5WJ-LG8

  2. Such a beautiful way to create art and meditate at the same time!
    Usually our phone books just get put in the recycling when they get old.
    Now I’m going to start seeing them in a different light.

    Definitely love this idea!

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