I aim to demonstrate sustainable practices in my work, using environmentally responsible materials where possible. As an artist interested in eco psychology, my aim is to encourage the relationship and connection between ourselves and nature, but at the same time to raise awareness of the sensitivity of natural ecosystems and minimise disturbance by human interaction, promoting the conservation of threatened habitats and reserves. Environmental stewardship takes into account the impact of work practices in these places and beyond to the general environment, considering the suitability of materials, processes and approach.
In the studio, practical measures include using a system where thinning medium is left to separate from sediment and both parts can be reused (Gamblin have good information resources and videos promoting this for oils). Mesh can be placed in a jar and covered with thinner so that brushes can be washed out, whilst the pigment falls to the base and settles. Careful care of brushes can prolong their lifespan considerably. Oil paint can be kept open for longer by covering to reduce air contact and by using a few drops of clove oil. This contains eugenol, and the fumes alone will retard the oxidation of the paint, stopping it from drying so quickly, thereby reducing waste. In the field, gouache or watercolour can be wiped on a rag to avoid any waste water, particularly effective with water brushes as the water comes out from the filaments.
Looking for environmentally ethical products can be a difficult process as often there is no straightforward winning choice. I continue to research various solutions particularly in packaging. I try to source products from companies with environmental concerns for their products, manufacturing processes and carbon footprint and those with reducing and recycling policies, the following are some of the products that I currently use.
I work with Gamblin oil paints, odourless mineral spirits and solvent free medium – modern alternatives to turps and resins, for their low toxicity and lessened impact on the environment. Gamblin try to operate their company sustainably, their factory is run by wind-power; they consider their transportation carbon footprint; their employees are encouraged to walk or cycle to work and they avoid waste in their processes. They recycle pigment dust from their air-filtration system and use it to make a paint colour ‘Torrit Grey’ which they give to customers each year to promote Earth Day. Gamblin has also collaborated with a research project which cleans rivers contaminated with acid mine drainage pollution by extracting iron oxide to produce pigments which can be used to make paint in various earth colours such as ‘Reclaimed Earth Violet’. (See ‘Turning pollution in to paint’ video below).
The frames and boards for my oil paintings are from Picture Frames of Shaftesbury, the only bespoke picture framing and printing company in the world to hold a Certification from the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC). Founder Hope Elletson made a decision to establish a more responsible manufacturing process, transferring all stock; frames, boards and mounts to FSC products in an industry where when he began less than 1% of mouldings in the UK were FSC certified. With major investment, the business is succeeding in its commitment to source all products from responsibly managed forests, combating issues such as over harvesting and consequent climate change, pollution and habitat destruction.
For fieldwork I use M Graham gouache, a solvent-free paint made by binding pigments with blackberry honey and gum arabic. As a company their ethos is to reuse and recycle, machinery is cleaned with walnut oil and non-toxic soap, the factory water is recycled and reused. They use 100% renewable energy and offset their carbon footprint.
I work with materials such as Bamboo Mixed Media paper by Hahnemühle which is made from highly renewable bamboo grass fibres blended with 10% cotton making it a resource-saving paper.
I use brushes from companies such as A.S. Handover who endeavour to purchase responsibly sourced products, promote recycling, minimise water and energy consumption and assess the environmental impact of new processes and products.Other measures in the process of making art can help, reducing waste for example by brush care, by looking after brushes, recycling mineral spirits and not wasting products.
VIDEO – ‘Turning pollution in to paint’. John Sabraw
An artist lead project in collaboration with Gamblin paints which was funded through Kickstarter.
Getting the Balance Right: Five Guidelines for Sustainable Practice by Carl Alviani and Nels Gabbert.
Feature about Gamblin.
VIDEO – M Graham environmental commitment (via mgraham.com)
Company information about FSC® (Forestry Stewardship Council®) certification.
Art supplies are going green by Daniel Grant
Feature about Gamblin.