Baltidome Blog | Baltimore Green News

Artists, Clean Up Your Act

Green_PaintWith the return of many artists to school comes the purchasing of new art supplies.  Most of these materials are not only toxic to the artist, but the environment as well.  Art is not something that people need to survive.  We must accept this fact and for this reason is especially important to consider what is used when making art.  I’m not arguing the virtue or place of the artist in the contemporary world.  Art is part of what makes us human and it can create much joy as well as educate or provoke inquiry into different ways of thinking. -But, as daunting as it may seem to find supplies without toxic ingredients, bear in mind that noted artists of the past were doing so centuries before we created synthetics to make our art with.

Artists are mislead into believing that acrylic paints are eco-friendly.  In fact, most acrylic and oil paints contain inorganic pigments and toxic ingredients.  Additionally, acrylic paint is essentially liquid plastic and plastic never biodegrades.  A true environmentally friendly paint option is Old Fashioned Milk Paint, which has a gouache-like appearance.  Milk Paint is available at Artist & Craftsman Supply in downtown Baltimore at the corner of North Avenue and Howard Street.

Make Your Own Paint
Natural pigments are not easily found in Baltimore, so I recommend the online BioShield; Healthy Living Paints store.  I have been purchasing earth pigments from Bioshield for years and am very pleased with their efficient service and variety of colors.  To make paint, mix the natural pigment with raw linseed oil (glossy) or pure tung oil (matte).

More recipes for non-toxic paint can be found in the book Green Guide for Artists: Nontoxic Recipes, Green Art Ideas, & Resources for the Eco-Conscious Artist by Karen Michel (retail $22.99).

Remnant Paint
Partially used cans of paint are offered for sale at The Loading Dock, a supplier of used and remnant building supplies.

With all of the waste that is disposed of on a daily basis, it is not difficult to make sculpture from used materials.  However, if you cannot find what you are looking for to make your next piece, there are some great Baltimore sources to check out.  Second Chance sells architectural salvage and, as mentioned above, refuse building supplies can be found at The Loading Dock.  The Baltimore Free Store has free monthly “flea markets” and Baltimore’s craigslist is also a great resource for used and discarded supplies.

For sources of more unusual materials, check out the Crafting a Greener World blog.  Here you can find suggestions for and where to buy green supplies (under Tools & Supplies), such as bamboo fiber fill and recycled jean yarn.

Works by Elisa Shere, Jennifer Strunge, and Will Hollman

Works by Elisa Shere, Jennifer Strunge, and Will Holman

There are many talented artists, crafters and designers in Baltimore working with used and remnant materials.  If you are interested in seeing what local artists and designers are making, check out Baltidome’s Upcycled Art & Design page. Here you will find examples by local artists and links to their sites.