Creating an Earth-Friendly Art Studio

By Joanie Springer in Art Tutorials > Painting Tutorials

I have a goal as an artist (actually I have many) but one very high up on my list is to have a solvent-free, toxic-free, and cruelty-free art studio.

The ultimate peace, for me, is to never have to worry about my own health, or those in my environment, including my cats, as well as the knowledge that I am not bringing harm to any other creature sharing this planet.

So this short article will explain my own approach towards achieving that goal.

1. Removing solvents from your studio

The solvent-free portion is easily accomplished by using water-soluble (also called water miscible) oil paints. I love them! I wouldn’t be able to use oils at all if there were no water soluble alternatives. . . solvents set me wheezing, so I’m thrilled to have discovered them.

Since I hadn’t ever used traditional oils, I did not have the awkward adjustment that other artists may experience. Instead, when I set out on my artist’s journey, I started with ink and watercolor, took a turn to acrylics, and then, ah, found oils!

There was no going back.

The most difficult hurdle was finding a good medium that I could mix with my oils, and also one that worked with my style of painting. I have only tried a few water soluble mediums and none have dazzled me, but I like Walnut Alkyd Medium (by M Graham), and at times, wax.

2. Buying toxic-free oil paints

Because I tend to be quite messy when I paint, and at times can’t resist sticking my fingers in my paintings for a swipe here, a fingerprint there, I choose to use toxic-free pigments.

It’s a journey, but so far, I have found excellent alternatives to both Cadmium Red (try Grumbacher Red, by Grumbacher Max) and Cadmium Yellow (I use Primary Yellow Light by Royal Talens Cobra though there are a few others I’m trying out as well)

I’ve even found a non-toxic Cerulean and Cobalt that I can use (both from Artisan). I was shocked to see that even some Sap Greens and Titanium Whites have warnings, so it’s been eye-opening to just pay attention to these as I shop.

Luckily, DickBlick.com lists them clearly to the right of each item, and also has large swatch views and pigment information.

3. Finding cruelty-free paint brushes

When I first started painting in watercolor I bought some lovely kolinsky brushes. As I used them I couldn’t help but wonder how they were made. . . so I inquired, and most people didn’t know, but I did manage to stumble upon a video that sobered me.

Thankfully there are so many other wonderful brushes which use synthetic fibers that this choice was an easy one.

The DaVinci Top Acryl are just the perfect stiffness for me, and a really fantastic brush. I usually prefer a rigid surface to paint on (either wood, masonite or canvas panels) so a good stiff-but-springy brush is essential.

When I’m done painting, I use Master’s Brush Cleaner and Conditioner, after cleaning and swishing in water, of course. Very easy.

And there you have it—a solvent-free, toxic-free, and cruelty-free art studio!

To learn more about water-soluble oils, check out Joanie Springer’s color-mixing posts (with lots of images) here.

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