Friday, April 10, 2015

H is for...Hazards

When I first started painting, I didn't think twice about any potential dangers associated with creating art, but it's a truth that cannot be ignored.

I use encaustic paints, which are a mixture of beeswax, resin, and pigment, and the paint is heated in order to paint with it (it would be pretty tough to work with a hunk of hard wax!)

There are a number of simple precautions to protect your health when using encaustic paints, and they are mostly common sense.  The problem is, when you get immersed in creating, sometimes safety takes a back seat.

For encaustic painting, you need to ventilate.  Wax paint,  according to manufacturer R&F Paints, melts at 162-168 degrees F and is safe to use between 180-200 degrees F.  If the wax is smoking, it is too hot!  Fresh air is necessary by means of cross-ventilation, at a minimum, or a fan, or hood removal vent of some sort.

It is cold, here in Alberta in the wintertime, and there have been days when I was only going to paint for a few minutes, and two hours later I decided to open the window.  I have overdone it.  Wax fumes can irritate the respiratory system and cause coughing.

Another hazard of encaustic painting is burns.  I've been fortunate in the fact that I haven't had any severe burns -- nothing worse than the pain you would get from dripping a few drops of hot wax from a candle on your skin.  But the heated tools can deceive you.

The other thing to consider is fire from either an electrical source or a torch.  Many encaustic artists use torches in order to fuse the wax.  I have a butane creme brule torch that I use because I am too chicken to use a big torch, and I won't use it in the house anyway.  (Maybe when I move my studio out to the garage!)  Even with that little torch, though, it would only take one wrong move to set a roll of paper towel aflame.

Finally, I would like to mention pigments.  Dry pigment is a little scary to me, and there are ample warning labels on most if not all pigments sold in North America.  The only dry pigment I use at this point is titanium white, and I am careful with it.  Most pigments recommend dusk masks and gloves. I saw a setup online the other day where the artist had a dedicated box with a plexiglass top and attached rubber gloves (like a biohazard work area) where she mixed the pigments in an enclosed area.

As someone with a mild form of health anxiety, when I first researched some of the hazards of paint in general and encaustic in specific, I thought I might have to give up my art.  On the heels of that thought, however, I knew there was no way that was going to is too much a part of me.  I respect the safety precautions, and I have outgrown a basement studio anyway, so my next move to the garage will eliminate many risks.

1 comment:

  1. When I was a potter I had more issues than I do as a photographer or pen and ink artist. Though there have been times that I have almost been run over.
    I love the way your imagination takes over and creates beauty.
    Hope you are meeting some inspiring A to Zers