Thanks so much, Rachel, for taking the time to speak with us about your eco-friendly painting journey! Let's get started!
Could you please tell us about how your first got into painting?
Thanks so much for having me! Yes, I’ve always been quite creative and artistic in a variety of ways, but I first began painting in my late teens. It all started very spontaneously and naturally, and I just immediately fell in love with it. I’ve always struggled with anxiety, and painting just became therapeutic for me. It’s the best way I know how to slow down racing thoughts and live in the present.
How did you first learn about sustainable art and making your own natural paints?
Natural Earth Paint was actually there from the very beginning of my eco-friendly, non-toxic art journey!
As someone with chronic health issues and a keen interest in non-toxic living, natural art was probably an inevitable path for me. I just remember there was this one night where I was covered in acrylic paint after a long day of painting and the thought occurred to me “This is probably not so healthy.” I started looking for non-toxic acrylics, and quickly (and angrily) learned that didn’t exist. I fell into a world of knowledge over the next several months, where I learned all about how different art materials are made, where they are sourced, what environmental or health implications they have, and if there were any better alternatives. And the NEP blog was one of my favorite sources for all that info! Soon I began experimenting with making my own paints. I found it brought a deeper connection to my work, as well as less stress knowing the materials were totally safe.
Was your decision to switch to natural pigments related to health worries, ethical reasons, or eco-conscious concerns?
Definitely all of the above! My health concerns were what first motivated me to learn more about conventional materials, and that’s when I saw there were also environmental and ethical issues all tangled in. I get really passionately angry about these things, which fueled the fire in me to call it out and choose a better way.
How has using Natural Earth Paint supplies changed your creative practice?
Natural Earth Paint supplies changed my practice in countless ways. Most notably, the process of paint mixing has given me a deepened connection to my work. It’s meditative, intentional, and zen. It makes the final work feel more organic and holistic.
How would you describe your own artistic style?
I’m a contemporary abstract artist. My style reflects the blending of nature with minimalist design. It’s earthy, with a thoughtful emphasis on texture and the spectrum of contrast and unity. My work forms unique connections between raw textures, earth pigments, and natural materials.
Where do you seek inspiration?
My work is conceptual and emotion-driven, so inspiration comes from everything; from life. But common themes of my process and work explore philosophy, psychology, social justice, health, and nature. Nature is my most constant theme. I’m endlessly inspired by the raw, natural materials I work with, borrowed from earth in a harmonious way. From ridges on a sandy beach to the weathered down stone of an old building, I’m fascinated by the unpredictability of natural textures, their imperfect patterns, and unique formations. I’m captivated by the way light and shadow dance across the peaks and slopes of raised texture.
What does your work aim to say?
My work is an extension of myself, and thus, a reflection of my values and beliefs, as I believe is true for all artists. I’m fascinated by history, philosophy and psychology. I’m passionate about social justice and ethics. And I’m an extremely emotional and anxious person. So all of these things are reflected in my work in one way or another. My emotions are a particular driver of what choice I make with strokes, shapes and colors. I think maybe because I struggle so much with anxiety, I seek calmness in my work. And since I tend to find my inner-calm in moments of nature, I work to create art that offers a sense of nature indoors. I aim to highlight the breathtaking beauty of raw materials and exhibit how their thoughtful presence in our spaces evokes a sense of tranquility among the observer.
Who are your role models?
When I started to really commit to my art, I found a podcast called Art Juice, hosted by Alice Sheridan and Louise Fletcher, both abstract painters in the UK. Being self-taught, I didn’t know many other artists at the time, so I had no one in my life to talk with about my practice. The Art Juice podcast filled that gap for me, and had such a massive positive impact on my practice. Alice and Louise helped me find clarity and build confidence in myself and my work.
You have a popular TikTok page where many of your videos showcase natural art tutorials– what inspired you to share your paint-making knowledge with others?
I wanted to offer what I wished I’d had: accessible, clear, thoroughly researched and fact-checked resources. When I had been doing my own research, information on eco-friendly and non-toxic paint was extremely limited or difficult to access. Today I’m a full-time artist, but my entire career and education before this was as a journalist. I know how to research and dig below the surface for answers. So I was eager to share everything I’d learned in an accessible and straightforward way, to spread awareness about eco-friendly and non-toxic art. I hope my resources encourage more artists to consider the source and impact of their materials, from both an environmental and health standpoint, and to choose safer alternatives where available.
Do you have any tips for artists who want to create their own eco-friendly art supplies like you do, but aren’t sure where to start? What were the challenges you faced when you started, and what made the process easier for you?
I began as an acrylic artist so when I set out for a more sustainable practice, I was mostly looking for acrylic alternatives. The biggest challenges I faced, and still face today, were transparency and misinformation. It’s very difficult to find paint companies that are completely transparent about their ingredients. Even seemingly good ones that claim to be eco-friendly or non-toxic, may not disclose all their ingredients — and that’s a real problem for consumers. And since there is such poor regulation of toxic chemicals or minerals, companies can claim their products are safer than they are, without ever getting called out for it. It all just makes for such a confusing material-buying experience. So I really had to stick with it to get the information I was looking for. There was lots of emailing brands and artists and lots of experimentation with new materials. I also began to follow as many natural artists I could find, so that I might be inspired or come across useful information even when I wasn’t researching.
My advice would be: decide if you want to pursue eco-friendly, non-toxic art and then commit to it. It can be a bit of a learning curve, so start slowly and trust you will find your way over time. Some universally helpful beginner resources I can point to would be the NEP blog and Nick Neddo's The Organic Artist book.
Where do you hope to be in 10 years with your art?
That’s always a tough one for me, I’m not much of a long-term planner. I hope that 10 years from now, eco-friendly and non-toxic art materials will be extremely accessible and affordable around the world and that my work will have contributed to that movement. I hope to be presenting my work in shows around the world that encourage a global appreciation of natural art.
Where can our audience see more of (or purchase) your art?
You can find my artwork on my website www.rachelmishaelstudio.com and my Instagram @misha.elle.studio. If you are interested in a piece, you can either fill out the inquiry form on my site or send me a DM. You can also find my tutorials and resources on the reels tab of my Instagram or my TikTok.
Photos by Værnis Studio and Rachel Mishael