Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Making Your Own Environmentally Friendly Paint!

Continuing with the theme of my previous blog What Can We Do as Artists to Reduce Our Footprint on Our Planet?, this blog will present you with options for alternative paint. If you are adventurous, have the time and want to have more control of the ingredients you use in your art-making, then this blog is for you.

Vegetable and Plants:
Cactus paint mix with water
creates a fun textures
Vegetables and plants offer a great green alternative choice for creating paint. While vegetables and plants might not hold their original color when exposed to sunlight for long periods of time, they are great options for experimenting and working on the protected pages on your art sketchbook!

Here are some ideas for vegetable and plant colors:

For Red:
  • Henna 
  • Madder 
  • Rose Hips 
  • Beets 
  • Hibiscus 
  • Cherries 
  • Strawberries 
  • Cactus flower 
For Yellow and Orange:
Using environmentally friendly paint
Abstract Painting with Cactus and Tumbo
  • Turmeric Root 
  • Dandelion Flower 
  • Saffron 
  • Tumbo 
  • Girasol 
  • Ramata 
For Browns:
  • Onion Skin 
  • Walnut Shells 
  • Black Tea 
  • Coffee 
  • Paprika 
  • Marigold Flower 
  • Fig Leaves 
  • Pine Cones 
For Green:
  • Grass 
  • Spinach 
  • Leaves 
For Blue:
  • Blueberries 
  • Blackberries 
  • Red Onion Skins 
  • Indigo Leaves 
  • Woad 
If you are going to use vegetable and plants for painting purposes, you might need to do some preparation. First, collect the plant or vegetable you want to use. Second, clean it well. Wash it and dry it. Third, boil it in a pot of water for about an hour. How much water? 1 part plant or vegetable material to 8 part water. After the hour, turn it off an let it cool down. Then start testing it. With a paintbrush, test the color on a pieces of paper. Don't be afraid to experiment and create a recipe journal that documents the preparation times of each sample. You might discover, less water or more water might work best. Or you might discover than less time boiling create better colors.


Pigments are the matter that adds color to paint. Pigments derive from clay, minerals and plant life. Pigments offer vibrant colors that synthetic alternatives don't. Not all natural pigments are necessarily nontoxic that is why when purchasing pigments, read the suppliers detail information of their pigments toxicity and rise risk associated with them. Use precaution by wearing a mask and gloves to prevent you from inhaling the powers and limiting the unnecessary contact with materials when mixing them. Some pigments are more lightfast than others. The only way to find out is using test sheet. Paint on the test sheet. Then torn the page in two. Put one sheet outdoors expose to the sun. The other keep it on you sketchbook. Monitor both swatches for a couple of weeks and compare them after a couple of weeks.

Here are some options for natural pigments you can use. They sell them in powered form and they are considered safe for your health and the environment (use face mask and gloves for precaution.)

Red Ocher, Red Iron Oxide, Yellow Ochers, Green Earth, Nicosia Green Earth, Cold Green Earth, Lapis Lazuli, Blue Ochre, Caput Mortum Violet, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Burt Umber, Raw Umber, Carbon Black, Bone black Black Oxide, Titanium White, Calcium Carbonete (egg shells), Mica Powder (sparkly shine).

How to mix?
To mix your own paints, all you need is pigment, some of of glue to act as a binder and mixing bowl.

On my next blog I will be talking about different types of binders, which can be made from plants, animals or synthetic sources. Binders are what hold the paint together.

Until then, have fun creating your own paint.


Vanessa Montenegro
Vanessa's Art Studio

Copyright © 2015 Vanessa Montenegro

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What Can We Do as Artists to Reduce Our Footprint on Our Planet?

Happy Earth Day!

As artists, we depict our planet in many ways and forms using different mediums and surfaces.  We draw and paint landscapes, the sky, the ocean, the animals and the beauty of the light. We use watercolors, mediums, oils, acrylics, chalks and so on. But have we ever stop for moment and ask ourselves if our actions as artists might be affecting the planet we so much admire and which inspire us? I have. I am conscious that my actions as an artist might be affecting that which I most admire: Nature. 

As a result, I wanted to share a list of ideas to on how to reduce our footprint on our planet while still creating art. 

What can we do to reduce our footprint?

-Taking proper care of materials, such as brushes, palettes, etc. can help reduce consumption. Clean your brushes very well after you finish working with them. Don’t waist paint. Recycle canvases and papers for other project. Take care of your frames and reuse them.

- Turning items that no longer serve their purpose into new tools and art making materials rather than putting them in the trash will keep them out of the landfills. Use old credit cards to apply heavy paint and work it as palette knives. Use cartoons to make perfect paint palettes. Use old scratching Plexiglas from picture frame as a cutting board or paint palette.

"My Reflection" by Vanessa Montenegro
This oil painting was created
with MGraham oils
- Try to buy materials that pose no hazard issues to your health and the environment. Look for eco friendly materials and pay attention to the warning labels. If you can, create your own art supplies. But if that is not for you, buy from manufactures or small companies that are creating eco friendly materials.  For non-toxic environmental friendly paint, try milk paint or make you own milk paint as a substitute to acrylics. They are nontoxic, permanent, eco friendly, free VOC and hazardous air pollutants, lead and mercury free. They are also noncombustible. 

- Support manufactures that provide alternative eco friendly products. Instead of regular toxic oils, use non-toxic oils or create your own. At the Vanessa's Art Studio, we only use Mr Graham oils. It Is the only brand I recommend to my students when they ask to work with oils or watercolors. Mr Graham products are solvent-free. 100% of their power is purchased through the renewable power option and they  optimized their power use with efficiency lighting, detectors and timers. They seek out and purchase equipment that would otherwise be decommissioned. Their production waste is 1% (compared with an industry average of 3%).  The factory wash water waste used for cleaning equipment is recycled and reused for 2 weeks before it is collected, filtered and reclaimed for reuse.  Their shop uses no more energy than the average Oregon home. Their Cadmium pigment is a by-product of zinc manufacturing where it begins as a highly toxic metal and is converted into a beautiful "biologically unavailable" pigment that meets all current EPA requirements for disposal as non hazardous solid waste. Their paperboard box packaging is made with post consumer recycled paper waste. Their walnut oil is from black walnut trees that are considered short rotation energy crops.  The shells are used for other manufacturing applications and the remaining nut meat is used in animal feed. An other brand that also is manufacturing eco friendly products is  Lowell-Cornell. The company uses recycled aluminum for the paint tubes and recycles paper for the packing. Their paint brushes are made up from reclaimed wood handles recycle metal ferrules and animal free brush hair. Their acrylic paints are VOC and solvent free made of organic products.

- Make your own paper, from nontoxic, natural materials such as hemp, flax, and cotton. Hemp paper is naturally acid free and requires less processing than wood paper. Also it doesn’t require the heavy use of pesticides.

- For canvas options, you can create your own made out of organic cotton, hemp and linen. Stretched yourself using sustainable wood. You not only save money, reduce waste and reduce consumption but you have better control over the materials used.

- Use natural pigments and plant and vegetable dye.

- Create your own gesso, glue and paste or buy eco friendly brands.

- Dispose properly your art materials. This is important. Read manufactures interactions on how to dispose paint and art materials since some are very toxic for the environment. 

- Buy local brands if possible.

Small choices make a big difference.  You make the choice.

In my next blog, I will be showing you ways to create your own materials and finish projects from start to finish.


Vanessa Montenegro
Vanessa's Art Studio

Copyright © 2015  Vanessa Montenegro

Summer Camps and Art Workshops at Vanessa's Art Studio

Art Summer Camps for Kids and Teens:
 I am offering summer art camps this year in June and July. 
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