A few weeks ago I had an art-block. I no longer believed in myself and had the recurring thought “what an ego trip is your art! All you are really doing is polluting the environment”. And I know that this is the critical, judgmental, and self-damaging side of myself, tackling her has been quite the challenge.
How can I paint about nature, mother earth, and the well-being of all living beings, when my materials contribute to the problems? Every time I rinsed my brushes I just felt terrible. So I set out on a quest for eco-friendly painting materials to actually put my ideas into practice. Because although that critical and judgmental side is not always pleasant, sometimes there is a point of truth in it and it is an opportunity to grow.
I already knew that non-synthetic brushes are made from animal hair and that this is not a happy haircut. Those animals, often pigs, are plucked alive while screaming, especially their sensitive whiskers are used for brushes. So, I use the brushes of the Van Gogh Oil/Acrylic Series (link) and I am very happy with them. During my search, I also discovered that animal skin is used in gesso, animal bones are often burned in black tones, horse urine is in yellow tones and in any case, all acrylic paint is worse for the environment than oil paint. The most environmentally friendly oil paint I could find was the Cobra water-soluble oil paint (link). You do not have to use turpentine and you can simply clean your brushes with a little soap. Super nice! My studio was finally free of chemical fumes and I also loved the idea that my paintings don’t emit chemicals when they are on a client’s wall.
But, something kept gnawing at me… Although water-soluble oil paint is a fantastic invention, the pigments are still synthetic and it doesn’t feel quite “eco-friendly” to me. I may be setting the bar very high, but I just want to be able to do what I love while protecting what I love. I want to be able to accidentally sip the painting water (yes it happens) and not have to panic. I want my art to hang in baby’s rooms. also, I want that as soon as someone decides to throw away a painting of mine they can just put it in the green waste bin. Or use the canvas in their garden.
So…. My search eventually led me to Natural Earth Paint (link). A small company that only uses organic soil products. Their oil paint consists of organic walnut oil and the pigments come from family lands in Italy and France. The painting process goes all the way back to the old teachings, just like Rembrandt and Van Gogh also made their paints. The thinner consists of lemon juice. They also sell organic cotton canvas. I am now slowly making the transition from Cobra to Natural Earth Paint. So that I, and my critical judgmental side, can honestly say that my art is good for all living beings, including the planet.