Feb 22, 2012

Studio Tips

Keep Yourself and Your Studio Safe

Sharon Teal Coray

Working with oils for over 30 years I know oils inside out. There are some ideas out there that need to be cleared up. First of all using oils is about as dangerous as using the general cleaning products we use in our homes every day. Most oils are non toxic except for just a very few. Some people think acrylics are safer but actually they are more toxic.
The acrylic polymer emulsion used to bind acrylic paint is quite toxic. The oils used with oil paints are natural oils like flax seed and linseed oil, walnut, poppy seed and safflower.
The pigments that contain lead, cadmium, or mercury are toxic if you eat them. They include flake white, Naples yellow, real vermilion. Paint, driers and mediums that lead don’t give off toxic fumes. But are you planning on eating them?
The answer of course is NOT! But, you need to be extra careful if you get them on your hands and eat while you paint you run the risk of ingesting them. Also if you have children or animals in your home you need to take extra care to keep them out of their reach. Never put brushes in your mouth. Also, paint mediums like cobalt drier and Maroger’s medium do have some substances that are hazardous to consume too.
Things that may be added to oils for extenders like alumina stearate, waxes or the resins are not toxic.
Now Solvents such turpentine, mineral spirits, and oil of spike should be used with some care. Because they are volatile and evaporate quickly, make sure your work­space has good ventilation; this also applies to odorless turp. You may not smell it but the fumes are there and you do not want to breath them for an extended time.
Always keep containers with solvents tightly covered when not in use, never leave them open and don‘t leave your brushes sitting in them!
Solvents can cause headaches and skin sensitivities. I have found that I get a really bad headache from most of them so I have to work without them.

If you are one who they bother try having a really good ventilation system, which woud include a fan blowing across you out the window. This is ok if the weather is not too cold or too hot.
If this does not help you may hyper sensitive like me and then you need to stop using them altogether. It is possible to do this!
My Rules for my students were:
Never eat or smoke while you paint
Keep your solvent covered even while painting
Use the smallest amount of solvent and medium that you can.
NEVER clean your hands with solvent.
For final cleaning of your brushes take them outside.

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