Keeping Painting Practices Green

Acrylic Painting of a polar bear mother holding cub and three other babies on a surreal melting world about global warming
Acrylic Painting of a polar bear mother holding cub and three other babies on a surreal melting world about global warming

For earth day coming up, I thought I’d write about ways I’m trying to keep my painting practices green!
I love Acrylic paint because it uses a lot less noxious chemicals than when I used to paint in oils–no toxic solvents needed. However, acrylic presents a different challenge–its a plastic. And as we have been learning, microplastics do a great deal of harm to the environment.

While the chemicals have tested safe for short term applications (it’s still recommended not to paint your skin or drink it, why I no longer keep tea next to my paint water!) a lot of it can end up in the water system through how artists wash their brushes or clean up their surface. Green painting practices matter!

raccoons holding the earth
Counting Out Time

It’s not an ideal solution, but I do my best to minimize this impact. I use the same technique for acrylic as I do watercolor and gouache. I use paper towels (sustainably farmed is best!) and I wipe as much excess paint off my brushes as possible. I often let it dry and use the same towel until it’s so stained and saturated that it’s no longer useful. For watercolor, I will do the same for my pallette if needed, but for Acrylic I will let it dry, paint it with a coat of medium and then peel it off to clean because it uses less water.

Only after my paintbrushes and pallettes are pretty clean do they go into the sink for a full rinse–again, not perfect, but it definitely helps significantly.

My paint water is disposed of using evaporation. I keep several large plastic cups on hand, and when painting on-site I will use large-mouth plastic bottles like the ones used for Gatorade. I try to limit my rinse water to an appropriate size cup and rely on the paper towel first when changing color. When the water is too dirty to use, I pour it into one of my evaporation cups, wipe the small cup down and use it again. The cups are by the radiator, and when the water evaporates, it leaves behind a nasty film, and I throw away the cup. All that was saved from entering our water supply!

It might not seem like much, but point pollution is a large contributor to the water pollution crisis. It’s not really one single source, it’s all the little things poured down a drain. While pigments today seem safer than the heavy metals of yore, those organic compounds still can have an effect on fish–and our drinking water!

What ways have made your practice greener? I would love to hear them!

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