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Working in an eco-conscious way with oil paints (Part 1)


As mentioned in last week's blogpost, I have just started an intensive online art course working with traditional oils. It has been recommended that we stop our usual art practice until new ways of working have been embedded.

Whilst I have stopped my eco experiments for the time being, I continue to work out how to use materials in an environmentally conscious way - even if you are not working with oils, I hope that my explorations help you to think through how to use your materials in a way that minimizes the impact on the environment…


Working with the givens

Most of the decisions about the materials have been taken out of my hands for now. For the first part of the programme, Evolve Art send me a box containing four different shades of grey Old Holland oil paints, brushes of varying sizes, a palette knife, a bottle of linseed oil, a pipette, grey toned disposable paper sheets, canvas pads and reference materials. Later, I will also receive a selection of coloured oil paints. (I was pleased to discover that Evolve Art works with non-toxic pigments - I am already curious to see what they will be sending in place of Cadmium Yellow and Red...)


All the materials are currently shipped to the UK from the US, but I have checked that I can get Old Holland here in the UK should I wish to continue with the brand. I have also got sachets of natural pigments, which can be used to create my own non-toxic oil paints later on.


I would normally not use a disposable palette, but it is currently helping me to learn seeing different values more accurately.

One of the most useful tools in the first parcel is the pipette, as it allows me to use precise amounts of linseed oil, and so avoids waste.


It was useful to watch a video on how to keep the paint tube threads free of paint and so keep paints fresh for longer – I am learning to be more mindful of how I treat each material and tool.


Think before you paint

Following instructions step by step is a challenging discipline to get into, but I keep reminding myself that it will pay off in the long run if I first learn how to use the material in the conventional way. (I have some oil paint experiments from last year that are still tacky months down the line - I am beginning to wonder whether they will ever dry!)


I am learning to judge how much paint I need to mix for each painting, as we are asked to analyse our reference photo and decide where the darker and lighter values go before we pick up a paintbrush.


This is completely different from the intuitive, experimental way I usually use to create my paintings, but I can see how employing some discipline can reduce waste…


I will share about dealing with leftover paints, cleaning brushes and a natural medium to slow down drying time for oils next week.

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