Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Art Supplies - Another View

In an earlier post (
Eat your veggies), we talked about how eating meatless meals, even occasionally, reduces our footprint on the earth. The fact is that livestock pollute and if we reduce the demand for items containing animal products, we go a long way towards helping mother earth. Not ready to give up meat? Well, animal products show up in all kinds of things (cosmetics, soaps, etc.) so even if you're not ready to go "veggie", there are other ways to reduce the animal products one uses.

Today we have a special treat ... a guest author. A kind reader has submitted the following article for your consideration. In it we'll learn about some surprising items that contain animal products.

ART SUPPLIES: free of animal ingredients.

What’s in a Colour?
If you know where the pigment or dye comes from you have a great head start in knowing what you are working with and what you are participating in.

Some pigments are made from plants or minerals or are synthetic, but some are not. For instance, Ivory Black and Bone Black pigments are from charred animal bones. Lampblack, on the other hand, is pure carbon and not from animals at all. Here are some other colours that are not from animals: ochre, raw umber, burnt umber, burnt sienna, cadmium yellow, zinc oxide, gamboge, indigo, madder, cobalt blue, naphthol crimson and diozine. There are many others.

Great Books
The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques by Ralph Mayer (great section on pigments)
Colour by Victoria Finlay.
Painting with Acrylics by Jenny Rodwell


-Cochineal is a scarlet dye made from ground up female cochineal insects.

-Ox gall is gall, obtained from cows, and used as the wetting agent in most watercolour paints.
Holbein has some watercolours that do not contain ox gall. Remember to find out what pigments are in the paint before buying the paint.
Here are a few of their ox gall free watercolours: Cadmium Red Deep, Cobalt Blue, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Lamp Black, Opera, Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Deep. There are many more.

-Rabbit-skin glue comes from (you got it) rabbits. And it is used for sizing oil-painting supports.

-Gelatin is made from boiling animal skins, tendons, ligaments, etc. The highest-grade gelatin, made from the skins, hoofs, and bones of calves, is used in gesso. Watercolour and most papers are sized with gelatin. Gelatin is also used in many foods and to make gelatin capsules for vitamins etc. Accent Vellum, construction papers and handmade papers usually don’t have gelatin. There are some papers starting to come out that are sized with starch. Ask at your art store.

-Sepia ink is made from the inky substance from the sacs of squid and cuttlefish. India Ink or Chinese Ink is made of carbon or lampblack pigment, and a shellac binder. Shellac is obtained from secretions of an insect.
Damar Varnish is from a plant source. See, The Artist’s Handbook by Ralph Mayer.

-Water Soluble Ink seldom contains animal ingredients. Water Resistant Inks usually do contain animal ingredients, but no harm in asking. Check with the manufacturer via the internet and click on “Contact Us”.

-Charcoal comes from vines and willow, but bone charcoal doesn’t. The word “bone” is a dead give away. Ask before you buy.

-Graphite: mineral. Conte Crayon: natural pigments (iron oxides, carbon black, titanium dioxide), clay (kaolin) and a binder (cellulose ether).

-Pencils: Derwent does not use any beeswax in any of their products. Their charcoal pencils are made from pure charcoal, clay and pigment. The wax used in the pencils is from a plant source, the binding material is from a mineral source. They have a list of individual colour pencils that are free of animal products. Just ask them. Their Coloursoft pencils, Graphitint pencils, Aquatone pencils, metallics pencils, graphitone and Derwent Pastel Blocks are all free from animal ingredients.

-Krylon has fixative sprays that do not contain animal ingredients

-Yupo Paper (100% polypropylene) suitable for all watercolour techniques. Good for drawing and fixative sticks to it.

-Raw Fabrics: unsized organic hemp, bamboo, linen or cotton. Stretch the fabric on stretcher bars and put on Golden’s Absorbent Ground (100% polymer is on the label but ask to see if there is anything else in it ). It’s like gesso, but is absorbent for watercolours, and the Pastel Ground is for pastels and drawing. Also, charcoal on unsized fabric with a fixative spray afterwards works well.

-Natural brushes are natural hair that is harvested from farm raised or trapped animals, in particular sable (marten), squirrel or mongoose. Less expensive natural brushes are made of horsehair or bristles from pig or ox snouts and ears. There are now high quality synthetic brushes that are just as good as natural brushes. Winsor & Newton is just one of many who make synthetic brushes.

-Oil Pastels are made by combining raw pigments with animal fat and wax. Soft Pastel are usually free of animal ingredients. Here is a site on ingredients and also, another on how to make home-made pastels:

Going straight to the manufacturer or company is a great way to learn what is in art supplies. More and more new products are being made that are free from animal ingredients. The internet has put us in easy reach of manufactures and companies who want to hear from us. A simple, polite request has power. It’s now easier than ever to ask for products that are free of animal ingredients.

When it comes to art materials, leave the animals out of it.

Compassionate change. Ask for it