I never thought I’d be working a hazardous or dangerous job. It just never occurred to me. I understand that every job has some sort of danger involved, so let’s ignore the slips, fall from heights, or get hit by a bus scenarios. I’m talking about getting sick-from-what-you-use-everyday-in-your-job kind of hazards. While my computer is relatively safe and typing on my keys will not befell me some horrible disease, painting could. *gasp* Okay, let’s back up.
It is not likely I will die tomorrow from touching my paint but I do find it interesting that most people do not think about this aspect of paint materials. Painting and art is usually billed as a calming and fulfilling experience that will set you free, make all your dreams come true, and adoring audiences will flock to your presence. Not a bad dream, but it is important that people know what they are getting into.
Titanium white, the most common colour bought at Colours Art Supplies contains Titanium Dioxide, which has been known to cause cancer in rats.1 And that is only one of the pitfalls with artist supplies. Don’t get me started on cadmiums. Here is a list of warnings I tell customers before they buy the said product:
- Spray Paint – Contains Acetate and Butane. Don’t get on your skin, eyes or in your mouth. Most spray cans contain a warning from California stating that it has cancerous properties.
- Spray Adhesive – It is adhesive. And it is in a spray form. (That should spell danger right there.) Only spray in ventilated area or outside. Use a mask if you have one. Be careful because it is airborne glue.
- Oil Paints – Oil paints can be toxic to your system. You might feel a slight burning sensation on your skin if you are not in a ventilated area or by an open window.
- Turpentine – Used to clean brushes and dilute oil paint. Don’t breathe it in and try not to get it on your skin. There are turpentine substitutes that are odourless and less harmful to breathe in, but still come with a warning label.
- Scissors – Don’t run with them. Ever.
But not all products are so clearly dangerous. Some just don’t have a lot of information written about them, or the problems they could pose.
About a month ago, I started using Genesis Oils which is this fabulous product that is neither an oil nor an acrylic. It never, ever dries, and will clean up with soap and water. It is odourless and easy to work with, it can be thinned (to an extent) just by moving it around on your palette and can be reworked again and again on your canvas till you are finished. To have it dry, all you need to do is heat-set it by putting in your oven for 10 minutes, or buying one of their heat guns. This means that you are in control of when you are finished. Acrylics dry really fast (a matter of minutes), and oils dry really slow (months of waiting). To me, this sounded like a crazy product that had no problems with it. It was reasonably priced, easy to blend and I didn’t need to keep my windows open.
The biggest problem is that not too many people have used it or written about it. So when I wanted to thin the product to make it more work-able and easier to blend, I found a small article that said I could use odourless thinner or mineral spritis. But this is what my odourless thinner says:
“Do not use near heat, sparks or flame. Do not get in eyes, on skin or clothing. Wear eye protection.”
I wondered how was I supposed to actually finish the project and had an “Oh Shit” moment because I had already started using the thinner and was half done the painting before I realized this. I know, I was too excited to plan this out.
After about a day of wondering and researching how I could finish this painting, I realized that thinner does go away with time (D’oh!). It can’t stay in the paint indefinitely even though the genesis paint will continue to be work-able. So I planned that after a good amount of time, say 1 – 2 weeks, I would be able to put it in my oven without a “CCCAABBBBBBBOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMM” and half of Corydon village going up in flames. Or at least a smoky kitchen.
It hasn’t been that long yet, but once the 1 –2 weeks are up, I’m going to put that sucker in the oven and see what happens.
So, whether you work with paint everyday, or are just a casual crafter/artist, please research before you start a project. Understand any dangers ahead of time so you won’t be caught off guard when you’re hit square in the face with paint projectile.
1 Kutal, C., Serpone, N. (1993). Photosensitive Metal Organic Systems: Mechanistic Principles and Applications. American Chemical Society, Washington D.C.