SchoolArts Magazine

October 2016

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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Leah Fanning Mebane The most common preservative toda for "non- toxic" children's paints is, surprisingl , formaldeh de. A s a professional oil painter and art teacher, I had always painted using the techniques I was taught in art school, with heavy, metal-laden paints full of toxins and an off-gassing jar of min- eral spirits nearby. After fifteen years of painting like this, I was offered the opportunity to create twenty- five large-scale paintings for a one- woman show in nine months. The show would open one week before the due date of my first child. It hit me that I would need to paint every day throughout my entire pregnancy. This propelled me to once and for all get rid of all toxins in my studio. I did extensive research on ancient techniques of painting that are com - pletely nontoxic, natural, and to my surprise, the highest-quality paints in the world. I studied cave paint - ings all the way to the old masters of the Renaissance and realized that they were all using the same earth- friendly paints. Why Use Earth Pigments? Using natural earth pigments (which are the most archival and radiant pig- ments available), mixed with a natu- ral binder such as oil, eggs, or milk, allows anyone to create their own high-quality, natural, and beautiful paints. A general assumption is that earth pigments only come in shades of brown. They actually come in a huge rainbow of hues—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black, white, gold, and more. These paints can be made by students ages three and up, and I've always relished that spark in chil- dren's eyes as they exclaim, "We're making paint from dirt!" Most people don't realize how simple paints are— just pigment mixed with a binder— and how satisfying it is to make them from scratch. Eco-Friendly Tradition Starting at least 100,000 years ago, ancient peoples from all over the world, including Egyptians, Native Americans, ancient Buddhists, medi- eval monks, and Renaissance masters, have used earthen pigments to make their paints. Humans on almost every continent ground up earthen clays and minerals and mixed them with a binder such as honey, blood, tree sap, grease, eggs, or oil. About 100 years ago, this tradi- tion almost disappeared with the introduction of synthetic pigments and petroleum-based paints. With the invention of ready-made tubed and bottled paints, toxic preservatives were added. The most common preservative today for "non-toxic" children's paints is, surprisingly, formaldehyde. Because of the danger of these kinds of paints, I'm on a mission to bring back the ancient and eco-friendly practice of making your own high- quality and sustainable paint. 42 OCTOBER 2016 SchoolArts Earth Art A L L L E V E L S through the Ages CONTINUED ON PAGE 56.

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