A healthy alternative to turpentine

Spike Lavender Oil

by Robert Maynord

When I first moved to Wisconsin, I joined a group of artists who met once each week to do oil painting. One of the painters loved to slosh turpentine all over his canvas, dipping his brushes in a cup of “turps”. The room would be filled with fumes, and at the end of two hours of painting I would feel dizzy. Away from the group, I wanted to paint in my home rather than in a studio, because I wanted to be close to my family, including my two children, and two dogs. The problem was, no one in the house wanted me to paint because of the smell of turpentine. I tried painting in the basement, but that was even worse because the fumes were carried up by the heater ducts. That’s when I started researching alternatives, and came across oil of spike lavender. While it doesn’t have the strong scent, odorless mineral spirits, as well as turpentine, is listed by osHa as a toxic substance, and both are considered hazardous if inhaled. While oil of spike lavender has a strong scent, it is not considered hazardous. It was used by artists from the 14th century on, and many say that it was the medium used by Leonardo as well as the Netherlands painters. It can be used to prepare the canvas for painting, or can be mixed with pigments for an initial under-painting or “grisaille”. It works great with tubed paints to smooth the brush flow and promote leveling. I have occasionally used it to erase old strokes of paint that did not look right, and it will even dissolve damar crystals! If you paint at home and have concerns for the health of your children or pets, oil of spike lavender is definitely
worth considering.

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