Sunday, June 29, 2008

The studio - Environmental Impact Study

A while ago I had begun to feel the twinges of guilt about my studio waste, so I had called the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corp (Johnston Landfill) to ask about it. They did not seem too concerned about oil painting rags, but it still bothered me.

So today I went over my oil colors to try to identify which of them might pose an environmental hazard. Of the couple of dozen colors that I use, I was glad to see that there seems to be only one element I need to worry about, and that's lead. I had always assumed that the cadmium in all my reds and yellows was bad, but in researching it, I stumbled on this information on Chroma's site.
• The most important of these is the range of yellow, orange and red pigments based on cadmium, which is a toxic heavy metal and is regarded by the California regulators as a possible carcinogen.
• Modern cadmium pigments use a coating technology which “locks in” the harmful pigment particles, and renders them relatively inert and harmless.
ACMI, the regulator which sets the rules for warning labels on artists paint has rated cadmium colours “AP non-toxic” because of the coating.
I use Windsor and Newton cadmiums though, so I went on their site and it seemed to confirm Chroma's information

Not regarded as dangerous to the environment
That leaves only the lead based paints, Titanium white and naples yellow. The news from Windsor and Newton wasn't as good...
Dangerous to the environment. May cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment.
If I can find an alternative to my lead based colors it will save me trips to the Johnston Landfill, but as yet I haven't found a white that is lead free, and Naples Yellow will be a hard pigment to give up. I love both for their covering power, which I'm sure is due to the lead. So I'll continue my research. Meanwhile, I'm storing my paint rags, I'll probably need to take at least one trip to the Johnston Landfill until I find alternatives.

In the meantime I got a tip from my friend and founder of R.I.'s best online magazine about the environment, about a good booklet from the Narragnsett Bay Commission specifically addressing artist studios. Check it out.

PRACTICES for Environmental, Health & Safety

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Feeling guilty...

A while ago I was asked to be a "testing artist" for Chroma Interactive Acrylics, a type of acrylic which can be re-activated with water as you work. Athough I never liked acrylics, this involved free art supplies, so what the heck? I found I did like them very much for studies, outdoor painting and underpainting, and will add them to my arsenal, although I will never give up oils. Chroma recently asked me to teach a class in how to use them at the Community College of Rhode Island, my alma mater, so last week I went to the Lincoln Campus to do a demo.

The demo went great, but I was shocked!, shocked! to hear from the teacher, Tom Morrissey, that CCRI no longer allows oil paint in the studio. Students must use acrylics, or other "non toxic" materials. When I went to CCRI (RIJC then) I found a great staff of art teachers. Although I had been painting in oils since high school, I made a lot of progress in the medium in two years of classes at the junior college. I think it's a shame that students at the college would miss two years of working in oils if that's the medium they ultimately want to use.

So I thought that CCRI was just being lazy, surely they could find a way to dispose of any hazardous material in a safe manner, but then I began to guiltily think of my own studio. I had long ago given up turpentine for Turpanoid Natural, which cleans brushes just as well and is in itself non-toxic, but "not knowing what to do" with my paint rags and the gunk that collects at the bottom of the Turpanoid jars, I had been throwing them in the trash.

So I've been looking into how to manage my studio waste in a responsible manner, and I'll post what I've come up with. I'm also starting a survey to ask how other artists deal with studio waste.

Meanwhile, here's the next phase of my big painting. I'm ready for some color now...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The home stretch

I started a large painting this week that is going to be sort of my "grand finale" of this shoemaker series. A while ago my friend Steve, who is not only a great painter, but stretches a mean canvas, gave me a big canvas and it was such a thing of beauty in it's own right that I felt I had to do a few dozen paintings to warm up until I could dare put a mark on it's perfect surface.

But I took the plunge, in charcoal only so far, and I expect I'll be working on it from now until November. Now I think I have all the paintings for my show at least in progress, although I wouldn't mind banging out a few more small ones before then, -- we'll see.

I did get in some good studio time this week, and I think I'm still feeling the benefits of getting away from this series for a couple of weeks. I'm finding I'm making bigger decisions instead of fussing over small details. Summer has kicked into gear though, and again I'm facing the dilemma of wanting to enjoy the weather, work in my garden, and accept all invitations that come my way....and wondering why I didn't work harder in January and February so I could kick back a bit in this beautiful weather!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Back in the studio

Today was my first studio weekend in a LONG time, and I was happy to find I could pick up on my shoemaker paintings without that disconnected feeling I sometimes get when I've been away from the studio for a long time. In researching inspiration for a painting I'm going to call "Assumption" I came upon this amazing painting. It's, to quote from The University of Glasgow,
from The Hunterian Psalter, a twelfth century illuminated manuscript, thought to have been produced in England c. 1170. It is regarded as the greatest treasure of William Hunter's (1718-83) magnificent library of books and manuscripts.

I've got to shift into serious panic mode from now to November, when I'm having my one person show at the Gail Cahalan Gallery. Besides finishing the paintings, there's framing and promotion to do, but the paintings will have to come first of course. I think the break may have done me some good though, I can look at my work with a fresh eye.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Catching up

This drawing is one I did from the Nordenskiold Trail on Wetherill Mesa. As I was drawing a very gusty wind picked up and it began to sprinkle. I turned the drawing over to wait it out and it soon stopped, but the clouds turned darker and began to smudge to the horizon, so I decided to pack up up. Sitting is a forest of dead trees on a deserted mesa at 7,000 feet is no place to be in a lightening storm. The wind almost blew me off the trail on the way back to the car, and it was hailing by the time I got home, so I knew I made the right decision. I finished the drawing in the hogan.

I find it amazing that it is taking me so long to catch up after being away for only 2 weeks, but such is the case I'm afraid. I've decided not to try to finish the Mesa Verde journal in this blog, but I will wrap it up and post it in my "words" section soon I hope! I'm also working on creating a photo album on Picasa to store my Mesa Verde pictures. I'll post the link when the captions are done. I figure that's the best way to let people pick which photos they might want to view, since I took almost 300! Meanwhile I'll try to bring the blog up to date, but my lunch break is over so I'll have to post again later....

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Back to RI

I returned from Mesa Verde on Sunday, after a 10 hour drive through mountain roads another quick stay with my wonderful cousin and uncle, then an all day plane ride. It was a great experience but I'm still not really caught up to where I was before I left. Hopefully in the next few days I'll be posting the rest of my Mesa Verde journal, as well as the work I did there, but that will involve some serious coffee shop sitting, so I'll have to fit that in somehow.

I also figured out how to enable people to post without registering (duh!). Just check anonymous and fire away. Thanks!
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