Some of my favourite art materials are VERY bad for my health… I have a couple bottles of Grumbacher oil paint from the 60’s which were later discontinued because the amazing colours which were achievable by some very toxic chemicals! Being aware of the harmful effects of artist materials over time is half the battle… and learning some good habbits to keep safe and healthy is just common sense!
• Firstly, thoroughly read the labels on ALL your art supplies before use to see how to safely use, store, and recycle them.
• Avoid contact with skin : this can seem an impossible thing at times for artists… I’m guilty of using my fingerse to smudge a bit of oil paint around now and then. But if you regularly use pastels especially, a pair of latex gloves is in order to avoid direct contact with the skin.
• Don’t eat or drink when you’re working with toxic supplies : this is especially true for working with oil paints, chalky pastels, chemicals, and adhesives… I don’t know how many times I’ve had to dump a cup of tea for accidentally dipping my paintbrush in it to rinse it out! Don’t work with toxic paints in the kitchen / dining areas especially as airborn particles can be transferred to cooking equipment, utensils, and food.
• Don’t lick the tip of your paintbrush to get it to a sharp point : this may seem gross, but it’s a habbit some artists have developed which should really be avoided for obvious reasons… ingesting paints is BAD!
• Work in a well ventilated area : opening a window or outside door, or even just working outside are great ways to get better ventilation when working with fumey paints. If you can’t open a door or window, try working in the bathroom with the fan running so it sucks the fumes out while you’re working, and take breaks to get some fresh air.
• Don’t work with toxic art materials in living or eating areas in your home, or areas that come in contact with children (who may be inclined to suck on paintbrushes or stick your pastels up their nose)
• Wear eye protection such as goggles when working with corrosive materials
• Wear a mask over your nose & mouth when working with chalk pastels or other easily air-born art materials…. and use a rag to clean up the excess dust to keep it from spreading around.
• Use smaller amounts of solvents at a time, so that you’re exposed to less fumes. Using multiple brushes for different colours when oil painting in particular will cut down on the need to clean your brushes with solvents between colours. Be sure to recycle your solvents and never dump them down the toilet. Many solvents are highly flamable, so keep away from heaters and open flames.
• Wash your hands well with soap & water after working with any art supplies, to keep from ingesting them or spreading them around your home or office.
For more tips on going green in your illustration business, check out Green Tips for Illustrators.