The Earth Friendly Artist

Like Claude Monet, many artists are environmentalists who get their inspiration from nature.  Monet's famous quotation "The richness I achieve comes from nature, the source of my inspiration", underscores the importance of nature to the creativity of artists.  Unfortunately, some artistic practices can be decidely unfriendly.  Here are a few tips to help you be an earth friendly artist.

  • Don't put anything down the drain!  Even if it is non toxic, it is not part of the local environment and needs to be disposed of properly. 
    • Hazardous materials (ie paint,scrapings or wastewater with hard metals such as cadmium or solvents) can be dropped off free of charge to government agencies.  In British Columbia, this is an organization called Product Care.  Their website provides details on how to dispose of hazardous materials.                
    •  Water based paint scrapings and wastewater can be safely disposed of by letting the acrylic harden and separate from the water.  Inert acrylic or watercolour paint is non toxic and can be disposed of in landfill unless it contains hazardous materials (see above).  
  • Check the manufacturer's website for MSDS's (material safety data sheets).  These documents will tell you any health risk a product has.
  • Oil loving painters should consider moving to a water mixable paint - it is better for the environment and the artist doesn't need to breathe in harmful vapours when cleaning brushes.
  • Cover your palette - When you need to take a break, cover your palette so the paint doesn't dry out and go to waste.
  • Give unused supplies away to other artists or schools.
  • Use earthfriendly art supplies.  There are manufacturers out there who have solid environmental practices and inputs.  Here are some to look at:
    • Fabriano 1264 - watercolour, mixed media and drawing papers are made with hydro power and are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified.  This is an international certification which assures consumers that inputs come from forest and supply chains that have been managed responsibly.
    • Royal Talens produces several lines of art supplies including Van Vogh watercolour paint, Cobra water mixable oil colours and Talens Extra Fine Gouache and many others.  Talens' progressive social and environmental practices include reducing electricity by 2% per year, decreasing transportation mileage by sourcing and manufacturing locally, programs to minimize fuel consumption, use of solar energy (780 panels), using FSC certified paper and wood and reusing transport packaging.  Suppliers are assessed based on their performance in child labour, working conditions, compliance with laws and regulations, sustainability and corruption.
    • Mabef produces easels and accessories from FSC certified beechwood.  Mabef has been around since 1948, crafting fine easels in Cardano al Campo, Italy.
    • Natural Earth pigments allow you to create oil paint from earth minerals and elements and walnut oil.
    • Da Vinci paint brushes have been produced in Nuremburg, Germany since 1952.  The handles are made from FSC certified wood and they are tumble finished rather than laquered.  The company fosters responsible use of energy by subsidizing public transit costs for employees, sharing energy cost savings with employees, energy efficient vehicles, recycled packaging and participating in the City of Nuremburg community energy program.
    • Tri-Art Manufacturing, a Canadain manufacturer, uses recycled material to create innovative, earth friendly art supplies.  
      • A super product called Gesso Sludge, a product made from the waste produced by their acrylic paint manufacturing process
      • Professional grade mediums made with reharvested walnut, copper cinder, plastic and glass particles.           

      • Hemp blend canvas, an ecological alternative to cotton.
  • Hopefully, these tips will get you on your way to becoming an earthfriendly artist.