detail of 'Yellow jars'

I thought I’d share some of my discoveries as I journey further with oil painting. Maybe they will spare others having to invent everything from scratch as I’ve had to do. These posts will be filed under the new category ‘Tips & Techniques’.

I’ve been drawing and painting on and off in various media for most of my artistic life (since around the age of 6, please don’t ask how many years that is 🙂 ).  But in the last year I’ve have been working most intensively with oils.

I’ve worked with oils before, and one of the things that always stopped me from progresssing with this delicious medium was that I didn’t want to be constantly breathing in dangerous vapors from turpentine and other solvents. (Water soluble oil paints were also not an option because I really do prefer how oils handle.)

Brush cleaning breakthrough

A real breakthrough was the discovery that oil dissolves oil paints. For awhile I simply used cooking oil and then hot water and soap to clean my brushes. But that was really messy and not that effective.
This problem was solved with Balsam Turpentine Oil. It is a natural product, I can’t tell you more because the label is in German. But it smells a bit milder than normal turpentine. The company that sells it is AMI- Art Material international. I have no idea if they are on the web or even still in business.

I used to use this as a thinner to improve the flow of paint,but it still has fumes so now I use it exclusively for cleaning my brushes. And I do this in a well ventillated place far from my studio. More on the procedure later.

Medium for thinning your paints breakthrough

Then I discovered Zest-it Clear Painting medium, praised be! (no they aren’t paying me, though they should!!)! Their motto is ‘Safe solutions for artists’.

OK, Zest-it is made in the UK, and has solved all my problems of fumes while painting. It is based on lemon oil and also contains linseed oil.
(I don’t use straight linseed oil because I find it gets sticky and the paint dries too slowly.) Zest-it is gorgeous to use and also speeds up drying. I understand they have a brush cleaner too, but I think that could get fairly expensive in use.

I pour out a tablespoon in a tiny glass bowl and dip into it while painting. It doesn’t smell at all, well only faintly of lemon. Yum. A little goes a long way- I’ve been doing well with a 250 ml, around 10 euros, for at least a half year- still have half a bottle left.

So I paint in oils without having any harmful solvents in the studio at all.

More about cleaning brushes in another post