Secret Artists’ Business – How to Paint in Oils Without Toxicity

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Would you believe I did this oil painting with no linseed oil, no solvents, no mediums of any sort and no tube paints?

Yes, it’s true.  It is possible to paint in oils without breathing in any fumes and if the room is not well ventilated, that’s okay too.  I will explain…

The most toxic thing about oil painting is the linseed oil.  Nobody tells you this and because it is a natural substance, everybody thinks it is not toxic.  The fumes from it are harmful and skin rashes are common. I have been made very aware of this by having a blinding headache and feeling fatigued after using linseed oil.  I solved the problem by inventing my own way of painting in oils.  I will explain my process.

Firstly, I purchased powdered pigments from Blick Art Materials, dickblick.com.  I ordered a warm and a cool of each primary colour plus one black and one white. You will find them under the letter “P” for pigments. I chose the Sennelier brand because the pigments are rich with a great depth of colour.  Blick Art Materials were great to deal with and the parcel arrived very quickly.

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Next, I purchased a bottle of safflower oil.  I tried to find food grade but could only find organic but this is not necessary.

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Next I put a small amount of the powdered pigment on my palette and mixed it with the safflower oil.  I made a runny consistency to start the painting off.

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Mix it well to take out the small lumps that will appear. The rule of fat over lean must apply as with oil painting generally.

Next I applied the paint.  Make sure you mix the powdered pigment and oil together well otherwise it will become clumpy.

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Next I rubbed back the paint into the canvas with a cloth in the Sfumato style which I like.  You don’t have to do this but make sure the paint is very lean for the first and subsequent coats.  You can use thicker paint as the work progresses.

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Don’t forget to clean your brushes with Eucalyptus Oil as per my post in the “Way to a Non-Toxic Studio” category.

Here is a picture of another work completed in this way. The drying time takes a little longer than traditional oil painting depending on the thickness of the paint although this can be a good thing.

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Cleaning up is a piece of cake. There is no need for turps or solvents or any kind.  I sometimes use a disposable palette but mostly glass plates from my kitchen to mix colours.  As there is only oil and pigment on the palette, just wipe the plate clean with a disposable kitchen towel.  Easy!

To clean your brushes refer to my previous tutorial on how to do this in a clean non-toxic way.

PS Always use a mask when blending powder pigments.  They are not the best when inhaled and the powder sometimes floats in the air when you cannot see it.

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2 thoughts on “Secret Artists’ Business – How to Paint in Oils Without Toxicity

    • Thank you! Yes the powdered pigments are indeed toxic. It is probably best to wear a disposable mask and gloves when mixing them.

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