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Non Toxic Art

Phil Caterino Posted: december 1, 2018 / Modified: december 2, 2018
Non Toxic Art
I have been involved with art materials since I was a teenager. Along the way I have been exposed to numerous toxic art environments; solvents and acids in printmaking, chemicals in ceramic glazes, oil paints, wax and welding fumes and countless other exposures throughout my career. I have lost many friends over the years, wondering if their tumor or cancer was somehow related to the materials they had worked with.

By chance I met up with the folks at Gamblin (i get no kick backs or discounts with them) in Portland, Oregon. They changed the way I looked at the oil painting materials and solvents I used for my paintings. Since my kids and their friends always use my studio to wax up their ski equipment, I was afraid I was exposing them to toxics also.

“For 600 years, oil colors have been made by grinding pigment into vegetable oil (most commonly linseed oil). Linseed oil is pressed from the seeds of the flax plant. The flax plant has been the heart and soul of oil painting, giving us both the oil our colors are bound in and – from the stalks of the plant – the linen we paint on. ”
Bob Gamblin
Oil Paints and Mediums
They offered a range of contemporary painting mediums around fast-drying, soy-based alkyd resin, which are formulated with the mildest solvent available: Gamsol. As a thinner and brush-cleaner, Gamsol sets the standard for studio safety and allows me to work in the contemporary painting techniques I use.

They introduced me to a range of Solvent-Free Painting Mediums, which gave me more possibilities in solvent-free techniques, with less compromise.

Gamblin Artist’s Oil Colors do not contain solvent, nor do they require any solvent for their use. They contain Linseed oil which naturally dries faster than other oils and retains greater strength and flexibility as it ages. Paler safflower oil is used in some colors, most notably white. Not only are both of these vegetable oils completely non-toxic, but they are also both used in moisturizers, cooking oils, food and vitamins.
Linseed and safflower oils do not give off “fumes. ” In fact, these oils take in oxygen as part of their drying process.

Solvent-Free Gel and Solvent-Free Fluid are painting mediums made from safflower oil and alkyd resin with no solvent. Why safflower? They chose safflower for these mediums because of its paler color. The alkyd resin, which is essentially a highly polymerized oil, accounts for the faster drying rate of these materials, compared to either linseed or safflower oils used alone. I

Brush cleaning without the use of solvents!
Many painters have incorporated either mineral oil and/or “green/natural” solvent-alternatives for removing color from brushes during painting sessions. Material used for this purpose should do one of two things – either evaporate entirely out of paint layers (like Gamsol does), or contribute to the drying of the resulting paint layers. Mineral oil or cooking oil are non-drying and should not be incorporated into painting sessions, as even small amounts can interfere with drying. Many solvent-alternatives on the market do not evaporate completely and leave behind sticky/discolored residues in paint layers.
I have found however that Gamblin Safflower Oil is ideal for cleaning brushes during solvent-free painting sessions. By using a simple “two rag” system, painters can reduce the amount of pigment that gets into their cleaning oil, and thus prolong its usefulness.
For brush clean-up during your painting session, first, wipe excess paint from brushes with a rag. Then dip your brush in a container of Gamblin Safflower Oil. Next, wipe the safflower oil and any remaining pigment from your brush with a second rag and continue painting.
After your painting session, brushes can be further cleaned using Gamsol and/or soap and water.
For God’s sake always use an Oily Rag Safety Can (such as those offered by JustRite™) until they can be thrown out. Even better, soak rags in water, and place them in an old jar or similar container and dispose of them outside in your household trashcan or apartment building dumpster.
Using either Gamsol or Safflower Oil for brush cleaning prevents pigments from being poured down the drain and contaminating the watershed.

So in the end, if you buy one of my paintings you can hang it in your home or office and it will no off-gas or contaminate your environment and the process that I use is the most environmentally friendly in the art world!

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