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Back to the roots: Connect with Nature!

What I love most about painting is to create art in an organic sensibility. To be mindful of the materials I use and how they affect the world around me. Every day I continue to be inspired by the intensity and strength of natural pigments and the beauty and wisdom of mother nature.

As a scientist, I clearly see the impact art supplies have on our environment and I know it’s time to make a change.

Working with natural pigments has led me to a much deeper connection with the natural world. Our planet really is a glorious treasure house and offers an endless supply of infinite colours.

My name is Jyotsna and I am here to inspire and ignite the passion for natural colours. It’s time we start using them. For the safety of our health, our families health and that of our planet.

A tiny house experience!

continuing with the Summer Holidays 2019 sketches ….!

After coming back from our wonderful holidays in Upper Austria, we decided to stay a bit in our home city of Graz before hitting the road again.

Our first stop on this trip was the headquarter of one of Austria’s best ice-cream makers, Eis Greissler in Krumbach (https://www.eis-greissler.at/manufaktur/). The weather that day wasn’t great,  it was cold,  wet and extremely windy in the Bucklige welt (land of thousand hills). After entering the café our son insisted on having his favourite ice-cream despite the weather being so cold, whilst we treated ourselves with a hot cup of cappuccino and mini bunt cakes, which we didn’t get to eat as they made their way into our son’s grumbling stomach :-)!

After satisfying our taste-buds we explored the premises for a little while. We walked up the hill to observe the beautiful landscape. I couldn’t help but sketch despite it being very windy and cold.   The weather condition was making my paper dry too fast, so I had to be really quick with my brush strokes. The fun of travel sketching is facing all sorts of uncertainties!

 

We next visited Natursinne not very far from eis-greissler. We were curious to know what it was all about, but it was closed due to a private event being underway. I took the opportunity of our brief stop here to sketch this landscape.

After Bucklige welt we headed to Gutenstein, our ‘holiday’ destination. Gutenstein is nestled idyllically between Schneeberg and the Vienna basin, home to Austria’s most wooded district. We spent our night in a small sustainable tiny house located in the middle of nowhere (https://www.wohnwagon.at). The tiny house was called ‘Fanni’ and it was really beautiful. The aged wooden floorboards, indigo dyed & hand block printed curtains (Blaudruck, Burgenland), solar-powered energy, compostable toilet,  a kitchen that was equipped with all the basic needs including local organic produce.  It was the kind of house that we dream of owning ourselves one day and living a 100% sustainable life!  All that surrounded us was nature and a strong stream flowing nearby. Our son’s excitement and joy were hard to contain and ours too :-)!

 

We settled in Fanni pretty quickly and had a hot cup of chai in our living/dining area. I sipped on the hot chai and sketched the cup of tea and glass jar with wildflowers. Oh ! it was so serene and beautiful sitting by the window looking out to the forest and listening to the sound of the rivulet.

Our tiny house-Fanni!
Living and dining area in Fanni

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning we enjoyed our coffee in the garden and got ready to leave. We wished we could have stayed forever in Fanni! I had a few minutes before leaving to quickly capture the kitchen with warm sunlight filtering through the glass door. I couldn’t finish my sketch, though I captured the memory of our wonderful time spent as a family!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Steinapisting we shifted our base to Mariahilfberg also in Gutenstein. There are several trail walks in this region. We didn’t do any serious hike around but we did go into the woods to explore a bit.

The view of Schneeberg,  one of the mountains that provides drinking water supply to the city of Vienna, the world’s best drinking water! After sketching with my son we went for lunch in the only operating Gasthaus on Mariahilfberg.

 

 

 

                     Our son’s sketches of the tiny house. He is a fervent sketcher!

After having lunch I went to sketch the town Church, whilst my husband and son decided to have an ice-cream again. I am always very hesitant in sketching architecture and especially baroque. It was a very complicated scene to sketch. I became frustrated and ended up scribbling some marks.  Well, that’s what Travel Sketching is anyway, its quick and spontaneous. It is an impression of the people and the place. It’s not all about great art, or skill. Drawing is something everyone can do. I don’t use an eraser or straight edge while I sketching: misplaced lines, side doodles, quirky shapes are all part of it.

Our final destination on this trip was to an organic farmhouse called Adamah Biohof in Glinzendorf near Vienna (https://adamah.at). I took the opportunity of our business visit here to sketch the lovely herb garden on the premises.

This was a very short trip but a memorable one!

I am really glad to have picked up a habit of keeping an illustrated travel journal which not only enhances my trips but also opens my mind. An added bonus is our son gets very intensely involved in sketching along with me. I love his passion for he is truly in the moment, rather than living in some odd parallel world of constant screen time, and he makes for a great sketching partner!

Sketching is, by nature, an old-fashioned way of seeing which a child seems to understand instinctively. To sketch a scene is to truly observe it.  Once we return from any trip, my mind remains full of wonder. A quick flip through my journal’s pages and it all comes alive! It’s certainly not the same as capturing a passing moment with the click of a digital camera!

 

 

Next up-sketches from South Bürgenland and East Styria.....coming soon!

 

 

Capturing moments in my sketchbook!

Watercolour sketching captured my heart only in the last couple of years. Before that, I didn’t know anything about sketching or how to use watercolours for that matter.  It’s magic to me that with just a few squiggly lines and some paint, I can record a slice of our life! I wonder why I never did this earlier in my life ..?

During summer holidays this year, we decided to travel within our home country, Austria. We spent most of our time in Upper Austria and a bit in lower Austria too. This was the most relaxing holiday we ever had in years!  Unlike most of our camping holidays in Croatia, where getting a good spot for your camping van is like winning a lottery and secondly, you can’t relax because the coast of Istria is visited by a throng of holidaymakers.

During our holidays, I not only spent quality time with my family,  but I also had ample time to sketch in the most peaceful and relaxed atmosphere. This blog is a collection of sketches from our Summer holidays this year.  What makes these sketches even more dear to me are that I recorded all those wonderful moments with my own handmade watercolours, made using sustainable and eco-friendly pigments. These sketches give me a very unique and personal record of my experiences.

This is my travel kit which I always travel with. My mini palette never changes as these are all the colours that I have and use. I love the challenge of working with a limited palette.

The mesmerising view from our cottage of the lake Atter (or Attersee in German). It was a simple life for 10 days in a very old and cosy wooden cottage by the lakeside that provided us with all the basic needs.

 

The view of Höllengebirge (mountains of hell) from our balcony.

 

Sketch of the town, Steinbach am Attersee.

I went on a solo hike to explore the trail of  Kienklausse-Taferlklausse.  I  took out my sketchbook to record this path which I had admired looking at during trail run a day before.

I couldn’t walk all the way to Taferlklausse because midway through my hike I came across a sign that read ‘wegen wald arbeit gesperrt’ i.e  the path is inaccessible due to tree lopping and trespassers will be prosecuted. Yikes! I tried to call my husband but there was no signal on the hilltop. So, I went back to the base and called my husband to pick me up. Our plan of having a picnic together still happened though and I made this sketch from our picnic spot.

 

The landscape in Steinbach is also very beautiful but its easy to overlook it because the turquoise blue water of Attersee is very captivating. I sketched this on my way to home from Strandbad (public beach).

One evening after dinner I went out alone to sketch and I sketched this old house near Strandbad in the evening summer light.

 

On our last evening, I spontaneously grabbed my sketchbook and sketched the sunset!I would have missed it had my husband not stopped me from packing our bags and taking a moment to look out of the window and enjoy the sunset as a family!

After leaving Steinbach am Attersee we spent some time at my in-laws in Gmunden. This time I decided to sketch the Gasthaus (Restaurant and B&B) of my in-laws,  Gasthof Engelhof which also happens to be one of the best in the Salzkammergut region.  I have always shied away from drawing buildings but this time I mustered some courage to sketch an architecture.  I was quite happy with my sketch :-)!

The next day my husband and I went on a hike to a small hill behind our house called Grünberg. On reaching halfway through I decided spontaneously to sketch the scene of distant towns and agricultural land. I appreciate my husband’s patience since we still had a fair bit to walk to reach the top.

 

During our stay in Gmunden, we were hit by the summer heatwave. Hence, we decided to laze around the lake Traun or Traunsee as we say it in German. Its the deepest lake in Austria. I quickly sketched the Schloß Ort ( a very well known medieval castle) and the surrounding landscape as I was sitting facing the direct ‘hot’ sun. After sketching I took a short swim in a very cold lake to cool down and refresh whilst my husband and our son enjoyed their ice-creams.

 

Our two-week-long stay in Upper Austria came to an end and we took a train back home to Graz. We love travelling by train because my son and I get plenty of time to sketch in a 4 1/2hr long journey that goes through one of the most scenic rail routes. One of the stop that falls on this stretch of rail route is the world heritage town of Hallstatt. I had very little time but enough to capture it with a pencil. I coloured the sketch later in the train from memory.

I am glad that I traded my camera for a humble sketchbook. Doing a sketch of a scene imprints it on my mind so much more than taking a picture. It’s not always easy to find the time to do a drawing when we’re on vacation (or any other time, for that matter!), but I’m always so glad I did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up: Sketches from Lower Austria..coming soon

 

Black Walnut Ink

I live in the lovely city of Graz in Austria. Every morning I go for a run or ride along the river Mur, which flows through the centre of Graz. I had never noticed the diversity of flora and fauna alongside the river until I adapted to my new avatar as an artist a couple of years ago. Even though I have always loved being in nature its only when I started sketching outdoors that I began to observe and connect to the natural environment more intensely. My field sketches are more than study notes or ways to learn the facts of nature. They are a means for opening a gateway to observing things differently.

Benefits of running in nature

I was running along the Mur recently and noticed the walnut trees loaded with walnuts looking almost like little green apples. There were plenty fallen on the ground as well. I realised during my run that despite the prevalence of ink, we have become so disconnected from it, much like we are from our food. It’s like when you have food that is grown by you not only do you find it tastes better, but it also has a depth of the story. So by making your own art supplies from foraged materials you will always have that special story to remember! In fact, there are all kinds of things in a city that are just ignored unless you are looking at them with a kind of curious eyes.  So, I collected a few of them to be made into ink for my sketches.

I usually think and get ideas while running in nature :-)!

The golden brown walnut ink has a beautiful warmth and timeless appeal. Black walnuts have been a staple in the making of ink for centuries.  Following is my recipe for making ink from black walnuts!

Method

Step 1:  Find a walnut tree and collect the fallen fruit. I collected about 7 or 8 walnuts as I wanted to make just a small batch of ink. For larger volumes simply collect more walnuts. The green hulls that encase the nuts are what you’ll be using to make the ink.  Several recipes recommend that you wait until the skin starts to blacken before proceeding further, but my curiosity and impatience led me to use the green hulls straight away.

Green walnuts

Step 2: After removing and collecting the outer green layer add enough water to cover the shells and put in a pot that is designated for doing all your creative experiments.  Wear gloves when removing the hulls as they will stain your hands. The walnuts are not part of the ink making process so you could share them with birds or squirrels.

Sliced green walnuts with hulls intact and nuts removed.

Step 3: Bring the pot to a gentle boil, then turn down the heat to low. I boiled the hulls for about 5 minutes and let the pot sit on the electric stove after switching it off for about an hour. To speed up the process I also added baking soda which helps to break down the hull and release the tannin. Walnut ink can be made without the addition of baking soda, in which case you will have to let the solution simmer for a very long time!

Tannin rich cooked green walnuts

Choose the strength and consistency of the ink according to your preference. Test it with a brush on paper to see if you need to cook it down more. I strained the liquid using a sieve but you could also use a pantyhose which will remove all sorts of organic sludge from your ink.

The colour of the ink should be golden brown. It is water-soluble, lightfast, acid free, non-toxic and natural. You could also add rusted iron to darken the colour. I didn’t have any rusted iron pieces so I will leave it to experiment with some time in the future. For now, I am quite satisfied with the current batch of my walnut ink. I also added a bit of 70% ethanol as a preservative.

Finished glowing brown walnut ink

As you can see, making walnut ink is not rocket science! There is no measuring required and nothing can go wrong in making this ink. If it gets too diluted just boil to reduce the volume or leave the pot outside for the ink to reduce in volume naturally.

A word of caution:

Walnut tree produces a substance known as juglone (5-hydroxy-alpha-napthaquinone) which is highly toxic to many other plants and some animals. Juglone is the source of dark colour in walnut hulls.  Do not discard the leftover black hulls into your garden or in the compost pit as the presence of juglone will inhibit plant growth.

 

Handmade watercolours and walnut ink illustration

I hope that this article inspires you to make your own ink from natural resources as it costs nothing, more importantly, it is eco-friendly!

 

 

 

 

 

DISCLAIMER:  Kindly take necessary safety precautions during the ink making process. The author will not be held responsible to any adverse reaction that you may have in handling a nut bearing fruit. The author may change the contents of this document at any time, either in whole or in part.

Natural DIY sustainable watercolors for children

Make your own children’s watercolor paints from plants!

As, I learnt and grew more into natural, toxic-free and sustainable living; I was quite set on creating alternatives to traditional, non-natural toxic paints for my artwork. I wasn’t always an artist, I reconnected to this dormant artist within me four years ago, and since then I have only been working with my own natural and non-toxic handmade watercolours. For obvious reasons, I’m not thrilled when it comes to store-bought children’s arts and crafts supplies. I decided to explore and do my best at finding the best alternative for many of these supplies and making them at home with my son. Not only is it safe for him, but we also have a great time doing something together besides playing and cooking!

Making paints from natural resources is an excellent way to introduce your child to the beautiful world of color. Not only is it meditative, therapeutic and rich for your child, but also calming for you. Before you start making colors and painting with your child, take time to delight in the colors of nature around you.  Bedazzled by the incredibly amazing and vibrant color palette of nature,  the extraordinary number of shades and tones in your visual path. Notice the effect nature’s sight, smell and colors have on you and your child. Connect to the natural world around you and open up your awareness of color as part of your life!

As Maxime Lagacé said, “ By discovering nature, you discover yourself”!

I will not go too deep into the philosophy of nature and its effects on us because this post is all about to share with you my method of making sustainable non-toxic watercolors for children.

How to make natural plant based watercolors for children

Kaolin and Clove oil

The great thing about this DIY recipe for homemade children’s paint is that you primarily require only 3 ingredients.

1. Natural Clay: Kaolin or white cosmetic clay (weiß tonerde)

2. Plant material of your choice and availability (flowers, berries, leaves, bark, etc), organic kitchen waste or you could simply use store-bought powdered herbal pigments (beetroot, spirulina, etc.)

Natural sources of pigment

3. Water

4. Glycerine (food grade optional)

5. Vinegar (optional)

6. Essential oil (optional)

This way, not only do you know what goes into your paints, but you can change the ingredients you don’t have. For example, if you don’t have Kaolin, you can use arrowroot powder or corn starch.  For pigments, I like to extract them from what’s around in our backyard, kitchen or local park,  rather than buying powdered herbs from a store. Store-bought botanical pigments could be rather an expensive affair! Besides, the idea is to go foraging for pigment sources with your child and getting them to connect with the natural world!

Kaolin is the best clay to use for making homemade, non-toxic children’s paint. Firstly, kaolin clay is fairly inexpensive and, secondly being white it won’t change the color of your paints. Not only Kaolin acts as a filler but it also thickens the paint. Once dried it re-wets easily too.

Making process

It is best to extract pigments from withering flowers, fallen berries, leaves, herbs whatever you can find in nature and knowing that they are not poisonous. Next, crush the plant material using pestle and mortar, this task can essentially be designated to the little helpers!  Then add a minimum amount of hot water to pull out the dye. Allow the crushed matter to sit for a while before straining it through a sieve and putting it to use.

Red dye extracted from Red chards

To  1/4 tsp of clay add concentrated freshly extracted dye (approximately 3ml). Stir the contents well avoiding lumps to be formed. If the color is weak add more extract. Just experiment and adjust the amount of the dye as you like.  To make the paint more spreadable and soft add a couple of drops of glycerine to your mix. You could also add a drop or two of white vinegar or essential oil (thyme or clove oil) as a preservative.  This step can easily be done by children, who I am sure will thoroughly enjoy!

Not only is this a safe and fun way to keep children entertained and busy, but it provides much needed creative and developmental stimulation as well.  Such as this flower made by my son using the naked stalks of redcurrants after we had finished removing the berries for making marmalade and some color.

Creative play

Once the colors are ready its time to paint with them!  If your child is very young (2-3years), begin by introducing only a single color. This gives the child time to explore the world of color. Adding in a second color at a later stage becomes a magical experience for the child.    If too many colors are added too soon, the painting will become completely brown or gray. This does not serve the child’s learning. I am speaking from experience and have understood this concept from Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy.

My son’s painting using two colors : Flame of Forest and Avocado

Not only are these watercolors great for children but even adults can try painting with them too. I am sure you are going to enjoy!

Painted using dye extracts of recurrants, spinach, marigold and flowers of flame of forest

“Art has the role in education of helping children become like themselves instead of more like everyone else. “-Sydney  Clemens

Natural Plant Inks

Its been quite long since I wrote my last post but I am back again! I had started my blog  Lost in Colours with an intention to raise awareness of the ecological issues involved in art materials, and to provide  non-toxic, low-impact solutions. Hopefully,  I can be more regular in sharing not only my insights on this topic  but also my struggles and joy of creating sustainable art!

To date, I had only been using pigments from Earth in my artwork. My journey into foraging for natural pigments from plants began last year after being inspired by a local artist whom I met while camping along the coast of Algarve in Portugal.  Her eco-printed fabric had me thinking and I started exploring plants other than pigments of the earth as a source of colours for my sketches. I couldn’t really explore and experiment much after returning home to Austria as nature had begun to go into sleep mode.

Butea monosperma : Flame of the forest tree in Auroville, India

I embarked on making botanical inks early this year when we traveled to India. During our month-long trip we stayed for about a week in the southern Indian town of Auroville. There stood in the courtyard of our guest house a beautiful Palash or  Flame of the Forest tree in full bloom. Looking at that tree I remembered stories from my parents how they used to collect flowers of this tree for making natural colour to play Holi.  The Indian festival of colours that heralds the arrival of spring.

Alas! the natural colours have now been substituted by non-sustainable chemical colours and this beautiful tree is now long forgotten!   I collected fallen flowers from the ground along with my son and made my very first natural ink in the communal kitchen of our guest house. Palash flower gives a vivid orange-yellow dye that mixes well with other colours too. I even did a quick illustration with it and loved capturing the memories of it in my travel sketchbook.

After returning from India I had to patiently wait for  nature to wake up from its winter sleep to begin experimenting with the natural resources  in Austria. To date, I have experimented with making inks from tea, coffee, onion skins, spring flowers in various colours, avocado pit, redcurrant, chards etc. I don’t follow any particular recipe but do so by using the trial and error method. There were a lot of failures, but I believe that’s the only way to learn and get better. I’m sure there are many books out there on botanical inks and articles written about it online, but being old school as I am,  I wanted to learn everything myself, looking for a recipe has never been my way of working. It definitely took me much longer than it would have if I did some research.  The satisfaction I felt by allowing myself to be creative while making use of sustainable materials is indescribable.

Natural Plant based inks

Nature isn’t just a source of artistic inspiration; it is also an incredible source of art supplies. Observing the colours of nature and being in nature is exhilarating!  I strongly emphasize upon using materials that are of the earth, are safe to work with and that can safely be returned back into the earth.  Understanding the natural colour palette of your region, and creating art with materials that you have made with your own hands and from plants that grow around you, can be incredibly enriching,  and connective experience. There is something sublime about walking out onto the land and gathering fallen leaves, harvesting flowers, berries, and digging up muddy roots to extract their colour. Bringing more beauty into the world doesn’t have to be deleterious to our environment or to our own personal growth.

Making ink is just one more way to enjoy the beauty and excitement of our natural world. Personally, I’ve barely scratched the world of natural dyes and inks, and am still in the process of learning, exploring, and experimenting.

Following are recipes of some of the inks that I have made and use in my work.  Please remember that you can always tweak them to make them work for you:

Rooibos tea ink

I took 1tsp of loose Rooibos tea and allowed it to steep in approx. 15 ml of boiling water for 20 minutes or so. I filtered the tea and added a pinch of baking soda (sodium-bi-carbonate) and boiled the tea for a few minutes. To thicken it you can add a bit of powdered gum arabic. If you don’t have gum arabic you can use it as it is too.  To keep this ink for long add 1/2 a tsp of vinegar and a pinch of salt as a preservative  (optional).

Flame of Forest Ink

I collected fallen flowers (about 200gm) and boiled them in water with a pinch of sodium bicarbonate. I don’t have an exact measurement for the amount of water used, it was just enough to cover flowers in the pot to have a  concentrated ink. After cooling I added a bit of alcohol as a preservative. You can also add vinegar and salt as an alternative preservative.

Tea ink

Loose florals painted with fresh black tea ink

I followed the same procedure as described for Rooibos tea but without the addition of sodium-bi-carbonate. It is best to be used fresh as it takes no time to make this ink.

Onion skins. Strongly coloured skins are best, from red or bright orange onions. They boil down to a rich gold colour that creates a subtle gold wash that can be built up through layering. It’s a distinctive gentle red gold that often dries a darker color than when you paint it on. It is great for staining papers and giving them a vintage look.

Pink ink from Red  Chards

I discovered this ink serendipitously when I was cutting the ends of chards for cooking.  However, instead of throwing the organic waste I crushed them using a  pestle and mortar and added boiling water to extract the dye.  Voila! I had a beautiful ink at my disposal.

Currently, I’m experimenting with berries, walnut leaves, marigold flowers, nettle leaves, purple basil, thyme, etc. I hope that my article will inspire and encourage you to try some of the tried and tested processes so that we can work in a way that is more responsible for people and our planet.

How ‘Green’ is your Green watercolour ?!

Green, the colour of nature, new life and sustainability can never be green ! It is ironically toxic to all forms of life and environment!

“Nature in her green, tranquil woods heals and soothes all afflictions” –John Muir

Trail walk to Laudachsee, Upper Austria

Green is the color of nature, which symbolizes renewal and growth. It also means balance, calm and harmony. It is no surprise that we feel so invigorated when we are out in the open surrounded by the beauty of nature. Such is the power of green, which manages to resonate with our inner energy, rebalancing us.

Today Green is no longer just a color. It is the symbol of Ecology!

But in an artist’s world, green has always been a troublesome color. Because mixing greens can be one of the major issues that can start to throw your landscape painting off-course. Green can be an Achilles heel for any artist, and the urge to grab premix green watercolor paint out of a tube can be hard to resist. Why is it so, I am not sure? Perhaps it has something to do with how we all actually perceive green.

As Pablo Picasso once said: “They will sell you thousands of greens. Veronese green and emerald green and cadmium green and any sort of green you like, but that particular green, never.”

Which Colors Make Green?

I don’t think there is one shade of green available in watercolor that depicts the beauty of nature in any season. That’s why I have always mixed my greens and that too using natural pigments because I strongly believe and enjoy painting in organic sensibility!

One of the basic rules of elementary school art class is that blue mixed with yellow produces green. True, those two colors alone can produce many wonderful greens, assuming that the yellow and blue paints you are using are pure yellow and pure blue. If they  have been altered from their pure forms, it will consequently alter your green as well.

Mixing greens with genuine Indigo blue (NB1), Curcuma (NY3), Ercolano Red (PR102) and Gold Ochre (PY43). Lost in colours handmade watercolours.

The chart on left shows the most delightful greens that I have achieved with my mixing. Notice all those green (rows 1-3) were made using only two of my own handmade natural paints Indigo genuine (NB1) and Curcuma (NY3). In the last two rows, I varied the colours by adding a bit of Ercolano Red (PR102) and yellow gold ochre ( PY43).   I sometimes also use Ultramarine blue (PB29) in my work to create several mixes of green with Py43. In fact, NY3 when mixed with PB29 also gives beautiful greens. Try doing several charts on your own to make some luscious greens!

Toxic convenience Green watercolor paints !

While the color green evokes nature and renewal, the cruel truth is that most forms of the colour green, the powerful symbol of sustainability can be quite damaging not only to human health but also to the environment. In fact, green color has a very toxic history. Whereas all shades of green look beautiful in nature!

Today there are many green hues available in artists’ colours, I’m not going to make you the whole list as it is beyond the scope of this article.  Almost all greens contain chromium, cobalt, or copper, all of which are poisonous and cause or are suspected to cause birth defects and abnormalities.

Toxic popular green watercolor paints

Phthalo Green (PG7 and PG36),  probably the most popular green in use by artists today as it is capable of producing a vast range of useful colour mixtures! Several studies have demonstrated that PG7  an organic pigment containing copper and chlorine can cause cancer and serious birth defects  (read the articles & 2 if you are really inclined) and they are quite toxic to the aquatic environment (links 1 & 2).  Another popular shade, PG36, includes potentially hazardous bromide atoms as well as chlorine. Something to really consider is that phthalocyanine pigment manufacture is done primarily in third world countries where safety regulations are not as strict and the risk it poses to the workers involved and environment is phenomenal. Remember these are innocent people whose lives are put to risk for meeting the demands of industries requiring that particular green color!

Cobalt turquoise or Cobalt Teal (PG 50) is a noxious cocktail of cobalt, titanium, nickel and zinc oxide.  Additionally, mineral pigments containing copper clearly come with a hazard warning such as Malachite (links 1 & 2) and Atacamite (link here ).

Chromium, a carcinogen that causes birth defects, is found in Viridian (PG 18) and Chromium Oxide Green (PG 17).

Cobalt Green (PG 19) contains cobalt.

Green Gold (PG10) contains Nickel.

The only acceptable greens are Green Earth (PG23) and Ultramarine green.   Green Earths are more numerous, but one must take care that they have not been adulterated with one of the poisonous greens to produce a stronger color.

It is true that the watercolor paint contains insufficient quantities in a pan or a tube to be acutely toxic or injurious to humans but pigments in dry state are far more dangerous if precaution is not taken. Caution the blues and yellows are no different either!

The heart of the problem is that green is such an elusive color to manufacture that toxic substance are often used to stabilize it. Ironic isn’t it?  So, next time you’re tempted to buy something in any shade of green, be prudent and just remember how poisonous that color was in the past, and can be today.

Most importantly,  know what you’re working with, what are the risks to your health,  to those who manufacture the pigments and your environment!

Alternatives to toxic green watercolors certainly do exist but the question is are you willing to make that choice to your art practice? Something to ponder over!

Nature is not a place to visit, it is home and we don’t destroy the home where we live in!

Hike to Avalanche peak, Arthurs Pass, New Zealand

 

 

Bibliography, Sources, and Recommended Reading:

The Secret Lives of Colour -Kassia St Clair

Artists’ Pigments- A Handbook of Their History and Characteristics

Volume 3 Elisabeth West Fitzhugh, Editor

Rossol, Monona. Artists Complete Health & Safety Guide 3rd Edition, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York 2001.

 

 

DISCLAIMER: This article concerns itself with the common-sense safety aspects of art materials and art safety in general. The intent of this article is merely to raise individual awareness of some of the issues involved and to encourage the reader to take steps in learning more about the factors involved with the hazards associated with art materials. The author may change the contents of this document at any time, either in whole or in part.