Healthy Artist Guide

I blogged a couple of months ago about Toxic-Free Artists via the Toxic Nation E-News here in Canada. Today, I received the December issue. (Sorry, I see the whole online version doesn’t seem to be up on the web just yet, it’s coming up with the November issue). Most interesting and useful to artists is the follow-up The Healthy Artist Guide to a Less Toxic Studio. A must read!

In my many years of art practice as a student then artist, I’ve exposed myself to an alarming amount of toxic artist materials. In art school I worked with plaster for sculpture, with oil paints, varnishes and turpentine, and with etching acids and solvents to clean printing inks. Later I’ve worked with ceramic glazes, batiking dyes, acrylic and watercolour paints, glues and other items listed in the guide. Then as a dedicated printmaker I used more acids, darkroom chemicals and solvents. I’ve always used rubber gloves because of sensitive skin but haven’t always used masks, trusting the schools’ and studios’ ventilation systems if they were there at all or as good as they should have been.

As home renovators too, we’ve used various paints, varnishes, drywall and wood fillers and nasty cleaning products. I shudder at all my exposure to toxins – it’s no wonder I was tested to have heavy metals in my body! Nowadays ventilation and safer materials and their use in educational institutions have improved greatly. I don’t do printmaking or painting at home. I’m fortunate that I am able to do digital printmaking, by working initially at my home computer and then printing at the studio. Instead of etchings, I now make collagraphs and I may do some drypoints again sometime. The studio now has the less toxic ferric chloride in use in the event that I succumb to a temptation to etch. I still have to use solvents minimally for cleaning but do so under very good ventilation. Awareness is now key.

If you are an artist, craftsperson or even a home decorator, I recommend looking at this checklist. What changes have you made to reduce your exposure to toxic materials?

ADDENDUM Dec.17th, 2006: I just remembered an interesting article about oil paints I’d read from a brochure once, which I don’t have, but this article has some of that information. It might be helpful to those of you who paint with oils. They may be safer than acrylics if you use the safer solvents. I suggest searching the Gamblin site if this interests you.

December 14, 2006 in Being an Artist, Environment by Marja-Leena