Daisy Gazing ©2011 Joanie Springer

Years ago, I made the move from Southern California to the Rocky Mountains in hopes of a healthier lifestyle.

However, I did not know that the air pollution in my art studio and home may be more of a health concern than the any city’s air pollution outside!

According to a number of national organizations, including the American Lung Association, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Environmental Protection Agency, studies have shown that indoor pollutant levels may, in fact, be two to five or more times higher than outdoor levels – and an artist’s studio is even worse

A while back, I visited the blog ART for the SOUL of it owned by the artist, Joanie Springer. I was impressed with her commitment to creating an Earth-friendly and healthy art studio I asked her to share her tips with us. Thank you, Joanie!

Creating an Earth-Friendly & Healthy Art Studio
Guest artist/author: Joanie Springer

Sally’s a Shopper ©2011 Joanie Springer

As an artist, I have set a goal. Actually I have many, but one very high up on my list is to have a Solvent-Free, Toxic-Free, and Cruelty-Free studio and this short article is my approach to this goal.

The ultimate peace, for me, is to never have to worry about my own health, or those in my environment, including my cats, as well as the knowledge that I am not bringing harm to any other creature sharing this planet.
The Solvent-Free portion is easily accomplished by using water-mixable, often referred to as water miscible, oil paints.  I love them!

Having not used traditional oils, I did not have the sometimes awkward adjustment as others.  But, I could not use oils if there were no water-mixable alternatives as solvents set me wheezing, so I’m thrilled to have discovered them.

A few years ago when I set out on my artist’s journey, I started with ink and watercolor, took a turn to acrylics, then to open acrylics, and ah, found oils!  There was no going back. The most difficult hurdle was finding a medium that worked for me, and my style of painting.  I have only tried a few water-mixable mediums and none have dazzled me, so what I am excited to be using is walnut alkyd medium (M Graham), and at times, wax (Dorland).

Toxic-Free Pigments:

Because I prefer not to use gloves when I paint, tend to be quite messy, and at times can’t resist sticking my fingers in my paintings for a swipe here, a fingerprint there, I choose to use Toxic-Free pigments.  It’s a journey.

I have found excellent alternatives to toxic pigments:

  • Cadmium Red substitute is Grumbacher Red/Grumbacher Max
  • Cadmium Yellow substitute is Primary Yellow Light/Cobra though there are a few others I’m trying out as well.
  • Non-toxic Cerulean and Cobalt, both by Artisan.
Silly Bob ©Joanie Springer

I was shocked to see that even some Sap Greens and Titanium Whites have warnings.  It’s been eye-opening to pay attention to these 65/CL warnings.  Watch for those. DickBlick.com lists them clearly to the right of each item.  I also love their large swatch view and pigment information.


When I first started painting in watercolor I bought some lovely kolinsky brushes . As I used them I couldn’t help but wonder how they were made….. I inquired, and most people didn’t know.

But I did stumble upon a video that sobered me (for they are made from the tail of a weasel). So, thankfully there are so many wonderful brushes in the synthetic fibers that this choice was an easy one.

  • The DaVinci Top Acryl is just the perfect stiffness for me and a really fantastic brush. I prefer a rigid surface, either wood, masonite, or canvas panels over the stretched canvas so a good stiff, but springy, the brush is essential.

Toxic-Free Clean-Up:

I use Master’s Brush Cleaner and Conditioner for cleaning up, but of course, wipe each brush clean and swish it in the water while I’m painting, but when it’s time to clean brushes, I use Masters. That’s it.  Very easy.  I really like their soap too for cleaning up my hands and supplies, and I’ve discovered that it even works fine on my brushes, too.

I‘ve written more in-depth articles on this topic, if you are interested, including color mixing of these paints with lots of images available on my site.   I’m an almost daily painter, and love sharing information with other artists. And painting, well, is there any better way to spend one’s time?

Great Tips in these articles below:

Top Paint Brush Tips from the Art Pros on Facebook
Go ‘Green Clean’ – Purify the Air in Your Studio or Office with House Plants!
How to Choose the Right Paint Brush for the Art Technique
Water Mixable Oils: Facts, Tips & Why I Use Them
A Study in Complimentary Colors using Yin Yang
Turn an Altoid Box into a Mini Watercolor Set
Palette Tips: How to Organize Your Paints

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