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Monday, January 10, 2011

Vegan Art Supplies

Katherine Kean, drawing, marsh, Cape Cod, Boat, graphite
Marsh - Boat graphite on paper 4 x 6"
©2011 Katherine Kean

This drawing is being worked into a painting. I may have decided to change the direction of the boat, perhaps because it's the start of a new year, it feels like it should be sailing out instead of in.

One of the changes that I've decided to make in 2011 is to seek out and use vegan Art Supplies. At first glance this doesn't seem to be too much of a challenge, but a closer look reveals animal products used in a variety of products that I would not have thought of. Brushes made from animal fur and paint named "bone black" are obvious. Bone black is a component of Gamblin's Van Dyke Brown, Ivory Black, Asphaltum, Portland Greys, and Payn's Grey. Gamblin's website lists the ingredients used in their paints. That the sizing used in my favorite Arches watercolor papers includes gelatin derived from animals is sad news. I had been using their watercolor paper for both drawing and watercolor and  I'm still looking for something to replace it with. I've heard that both Strathmore and Yupo use no animal products when they manufacture their papers. For drawing I might consider using Arches cover stock, which has no sizing.

The good news is that these days good synthetic brushes are available, so there's really no need for animals to be captured or killed to make a brush. I was also concerned that the oil primed linen that I like might be sized with rabbit skin glue. However it is not. Signature Canvas, who supplies my favorite painting surfaces considers rabbit skin glue as too unstable in humidity changes to use on linen, so they size instead with a synthetic glue. The gesso that they use for acrylic priming is also a kind that does not include any animal products.

Updates: I've used Aquabee Super Deluxe Sketchbooks for about as far back as I can remember and I'm happy to report that the sizing used is cornstarch based, not gelatin or animal based.
Daler-Rowney Canford Drawing Papers are vegan.
Claessen's oil primed linen is vegan. 

21 comments:

Kathryn Hansen said...

OMG...i had no idea so many art supplies used animal by-products in them. I'm sad too...i have always used Arches watercolor paper for my drawings...no more tho. Thanks soooo much for the info!!

Katherine Kean said...

You're welcome and sorry to make you sad. I'm sure we can find some good replacements.

mariannepost said...

Katherine:
I never really thought about "hog hair" brushes as being an animal product. I guess the turnip truck just rounded the corner here. And as you pointed out their are probably lots of art supplies that are by products of some part animal. Thanks for opening my eyes and engaging my brain.

Jean Spitzer said...

So much to consider. Balancing animal use and use of more synthetics.

Katherine Kean said...

You're welcome Marianne. It can take a little research to find out what products are made of - not to mention how! I'm happy to share what I've found.

Katherine Kean said...

Hi Jean,
For me a big part of the equation is being able to sleep at night; avoiding the inhumane cruelty of industrial and fur farming. And for the 15% or so harvested by means of trapping, I am slso considering that those methods are painful as well as indiscriminate, catching endangered species and pets along with the intended prey.

Amber said...

Thank you so much for that blog post. I too hadn't thought there would be any animal products in art supplies, but I guess that was naive! It seems to be in everything. So hard to be vegetarian or vegan sometimes. Good on you for spreading the info.

Katherine Kean said...

You're welcome Amber, and thanks for stopping by. I agree, trying to not use animal products can be a challenge!

Diane Hoeptner (hep-ner) said...

Let us know if you find an alternative to Arches. I've never found anything better than 140lb cold press. It's the best. But then, I eat animals. Marsh-Boat is exquisite, Katherine! The wife of an old friend (who you probably know, initials DF) -- told me when placing a painting of a boat within the home, the boat should always point to the heart of the home and not out the door, it's good Feng Shui! (:

Katherine Kean said...

Hi Diane,
I'll keep searching and keep you posted. I have to admit that once I settled on Arches I didn't search far - but now I have an incentive.

About the boat - I can see one would want their ship to be coming in. You must have been reading my mind. I've beem thinking a lot about the Feng Shui of artwork and I'm about to write a post on it.

Anonymous said...

Just Go With It is the movie. Here's a link to the trailer below. And btw, at second glance, it doesn't appear to be yours...fast first glance as it was. :) So at 50 seconds into the movie you'll see the painting.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHNieMwYbmQ


r

Katherine Kean said...

R- Thanks for the link. I see what you mean, that painting looks like a couple of mine.

You have a great memory!

Lesley said...

Thank you for this! I've done a couple blog posts myself in my search for animal free art supplies. I've been sticking with Strathmore.

http://lesleyatlansky.com/blog/?p=258

and

http://lesleyatlansky.com/blog/?p=1035

Katherine Kean said...

Hi Lesley,
You're welcome! Thanks for your links. I'm glad to learn from your posts that the Utrecht French Premium Watercolor Paper is prepared using non-animal, starch-based size. It can be a chore getting the info for some of the products, so that's great information.Thanks for coming by!

Tara said...

Have you tried Fabriano's watercolor paper? Sized synthetically and seems to work very well for me. I can't believe we actually have to check for dead animals in PAPER. It seems like we should be so far beyond this by now. Frustrating.

Katherine Kean said...

Hi Tara, Thanks for mentioning Fabriano. I haven't tried it yet, but I've heard good thigs about it. I'm glad to learn that it is synthetically sized. I agree, it is frustrating to see animals used in such a widespread way.

Anonymous said...

what abt the paints??? Any alternative

Katherine Kean said...

Anonymous, if you're seeking vegan alternatives paint is one of the easiest of the materials. Most of the pigments are not animal based. For the others there are plenty of options. Use another black instead of Ivory Black, or mix your own black by combining Alizarin and Ultramarine, for example.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot:)

Lori Stryker said...

Paints are not as easy as the look...paint manufacturers don't have to disclose all their ingredients, and they can hide ingredients within ingredients. Colorsofnatur.com sells 100% vegan watercolor paint and discloses all of their ingredients.

Katherine Kean said...

Lori, Thanks for the information. Colors of Nature looks like an excellent source for earth friendly, cruelty free watercolor supplies.