Painting by Rembrandt created with natural earth pigments, minerals, and walnut oil.
While studying painting at one of the top art schools in America, I trusted my amazing professors like they were preaching the gospel. I looked up to their expertise so completely that I assumed they would of course tell me if any of these supplies they were recommending might be extremely toxic. For the supplies that I already knew were toxic (like turpentine and cadmium paints), I assumed they were a necessary evil to produce a high quality piece of art - or else someone would have told me an alternative.
After leaving art school and becoming more concerned about my personal health and the health of our planet, I began changing my life by surrounding myself with healthy, non-toxic alternatives to many things. My family lived off the grid in small, hand-built, earthen cabins with very little solar electricity and a wood stove for heat. We grew much of our own food, used composting toilets, and eliminated all toxins from our home. And yet I STILL used toxic art supplies in my studio because I did not want to sacrifice the “professional quality” of my art which was my life and my livelihood.
I soon began researching “green” art supplies but did not fully dive in until I was truly forced. I found out that I was pregnant at the same time that I was awarded a large solo show that required me to paint twenty-five large-scale oil paintings during the nine months of my pregnancy. I went to my studio and packed four large boxes of toxic paint supplies, shaking my head at the price I had paid for all that. There were solvents, tubes of paint containing heavy metals, numerous synthetic, petroleum-based paints, and acrylic gesso.
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