The majority of Artists at this weekend's PEI Visual Arts Festival at the P.E.I. Preserve Company's beautiful gardens I'm sure will be working with acrylic paints. It just makes sense for drying time, cost and versatility. They just dry so fast, you can layer colours so quickly. They're what you would call "more practical". Painting en plein air in a nature lovers dream, beside the Butterfly House, you want to leave the smallest footprint through there as you can. The goal being to leave nothing under your feet. Ensuring the critters, fish, birds, butterflies and bees remain as healthy as when we found 'em.
Did you know that Artist's acrylic paints have really only been around since the mid-fifties? Unlike oil paints, which are made with oils from a sustainable plant, and are coloured with natural pigments of rocks and plants etc., (with some companies still using the exact recipies from 100's of years ago) acrylic's are usually 100% synthetic. A huge drawback to using acrylics is their environmental impact, they are a petroleum plastic product after all. However, there are things that can be done to lessen the impact on our eco system, and water tables. Firstly, read the labels of your paint, and choose the best eco friendly and/or nontoxic supplies. There are some companies that offer a little more environmentally friendly paint to begin with, like Wyland Ecological Acrylics or Golden Open Acrylics.
The farther the colour is away from white, the more chemicals that have been added. Darker colours can contain more than 10,000 chemicals including-formaldehyde, ammonia, glycols, mercury, gum arabic, you get the idea right? So, never dump your dirty water on the ground, or wash your brushes in the sink. Also, never, ever pour your dirty water down the sink. Not only will the plastic eventually clog your pipes, it can also get into your water supply, into the soil and ingested by nearby plants and animals. Not following proper disposal methods could poison your garden, your yard, your pets, and even yourself! I use a container to dump my dirty water into, and put high on the shelf. Uncovered the water will dissipate, and it will turn into a solid, making it much easier to dispose of.
I also wipe my brush on my towel, before I rinse it. Recycled towels work great, (I buy packs at our local thrift store) instead of rolls of paper towels. Save a tree too man, we all have to breathe.
I also try to reduce quantity and mix just enough colour that I'll need, avoiding leftovers. If you do end up with a a lot of paint leftover, maybe use it for an under painting on a new piece. A layer of parchment paper underneath your paints will help keep them wet, and extend their life and workability. You can also use a spray bottle, and mist over your palette from time to time. There are also palettes with lids, to prolong mixtures when not in use. For your supports always choose linen or hemp over commercial cotton if you can. If they were good enough for the Masters, they should work for us. Masonite is also awesome because unlike other composite wood panels made using formaldehyde-based resins to bind fibers, Masonite is steamed together using natural ingredients only.
Acrylic paints definitely have helped create more art all over the word in the last 60 years. It brings in more kids to create Art as well. Every Artist was once an amateur and finds their calling somewhere. They are more likely to do that if its easy, and affordable for them. So it's a great thing. It is just so much more convenient for most people than oils. The important thing is to just keep on painting, the world definitely needs more Art. But that doesn't mean we can't do what we can to lessen our environmental footprint creating it. Every little bit we can do to help preserve clean water for our wildlife and our next generation helps, and it starts with you.