Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Safer Oil Painting

Turpentine is banned from most collective painting spaces and classes, even with good ventilation. Turns out that they cause headaches, exacerbate respiratory issues in most people, and if rubbed onto your skin while cleaning brushes, you can end up with contact dermatitis. We don't even know what long-term exposure to it may cause.
Oil paints, while fume-free, should be treated as hazardous chemicals. No one wants to absorb cadmium, titanium or lead through their skin while cleaning brushes, or breathe its dust (if making your own pigments).

All of this has led me to adopt safer ways to paint with oil. I have an exhaust fan in my studio, but I seldom use anymore because I clean my brushes with linseed oil (surprisingly, it takes about the same time it takes with turps). An added advantage has been the cutdown on ferrule corrosion. I save the used linseed oil in cans and dispose of it as hazardous waste. I wear latex gloves throughout the entire process, until I wash the oil off the brushes with soap.

If I want diluted pigment, I use stand oil. In fact, I've been experimenting with a very oily and color saturated first layer. Subsequent layers are less fat and influenced by the fast-drying stand oil on that underpainting. I can usually paint over this first layer the following day. Here is a painting I did over two days in this manner. As with most of my models, this was all the time I had, about six hours.
David Rourke has excellent advice and many more ideas on safer oil painting techniques.

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