Although the Eco-Art Revolution expands far beyond special media, various videos have gone viral on Tik Tok highlighting the dangers of traditional artistic materials, namely paints. Eco-friendly abstract artist @rachelmishaelstudio on Tik Tok (@misha.elle.studio on Instagram) has created many viral videos on this topic, packed with tips, tricks, and tutorials for easy and quick things you can do to make better sustainable choices as artists. Acrylics and watercolour paints contain hazardous toxins for the environment and oil paints are especially dangerous when used in conjunction with turpentine and other mineral spirits used to clean oils from brushes, or as thinners.
Do you want to make more eco-friendly art? Are you up for the challenge? Keep reading to learn about the range of alternative options to explore!
What is paint and why is it toxic?
Paint is made from a pigment and a binder. Solvents (often called thinners) are also essential parts of the paint mixing process. Pigment is colour extracted from stones, plants, etc. It’s usually ground into powder to be used as paint, and can also be used for inks and dyes. Binder, also referred to as a vehicle, is what holds the powdery pigment together and turns it into a paste or liquid. Different mediums use different binders - some are less harmful, such as certain oils used for oil paints. However some are quite toxic, such as acrylic polymer to bind acrylic paint. Even though paints labeled “non-toxic” may be safe if they are ingested or inhaled accidentally, they are not necessarily safe for the environment. “Propylene glycol, for example, is safe enough for use in the food and cosmetic industry, but has a disastrous effect in aquatic environments, meaning that pouring acrylic waste water down the drain is damaging to waterways.” says Ingrid Christensen, a Canadian based Impressionist and contributing writer for Artsy.
@rachelmishaelstudio’s videos are taking Tik Tok by storm. She is an abstract eco-artist and a part of the Eco-Art Revolution. In her videos she talks about the harmful effects of paints and presents eco-friendly alternatives that not only work just as well as conventional material, but make for fun DIY projects! Creating one’s materials in this way makes the artistic process more meaningful for many. She talks throughout her videos about ways you can use everything from natural herbs and plants to repurposing common household items instead of throwing them away, such as eye makeup. Some amazing things you can use as pigments include:
- Old makeup (video)
- Rocks (video)
- Incense ashes (video)
- Spices (video)
- Flowers (video)
- Fruits (video)
- Soil (video)
- Even matcha powder or coffee (video)
Rachel explains in her videos the easiest way to make the paint is to grind up the pigment into a fine powder. Once ground to a powder, mix with a binder of choice depending on the type of paint you’re looking to create.
Binders and Solvents
Binders essentially are used to “bind” to the powdery colour pigment to turn it into a paste/liquid. Some alternatives include walnut oil, olive oil, coconut oil, etc.to recreate the consistency of oil paint. Water is the most commonly used thinner, for watercolour paints, as well as acrylic. However for oil paints, thinners can be extremely toxic - not only for the environment, but also toxic if inhaled. Eco-solve can be used, as opposed to the toxin turpentine, to clean brushes and/or thin paint. There are also natural binder alternatives available through small business Natural Earth Paint. Rachel suggests the Natural acrylic medium (product) for creating acrylic paints.
Sustainably Conscious Art Materials
We also understand that doing it yourself can be a little bit of work, and not often accessible to everyone. Never fear, Natural Earth Paint is here! Not only do they offer natural plant based binders, but they are committed to making art materials eco-friendly. They even offer make your own natural paint kits, filled with everything you need in one convenient package. Their Natural Acrylic Medium plant based acrylic binder is the first of its kind. It’s proven that being sustainably conscious is much easier than you think. And you can support small business while you do so! Sustainability starts with you!
About the Author
My name is Efua! I’m 22, and I’m a sagittarius sun, libra moon, and taurus rising. I'm currently a senior at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, graduating with a degree in African & African-American Studies, and a minor in Communication Design. I'm also a Content Creator and Strategist with Tablö Creative, a digital creative agency dedicated to helping small businesses leave a lasting impression online with our service offerings including content creation, copywriting, branding, social media marketing, web design and development. Our dream clients are brands whose core values are rooted in conscious & mindful operations. We believe that it's our responsibility to protect our planet from the climate crisis, not just through our personal lives, but also through our work. Our communication style supports creativity and freedom of expression by creating meaningful connections.