Art Tip of The Day – Allergic to Oils? Go Nuts!


"Lie To Me" © 2009 Janice Tanton.
"Lie To Me" © 2009 Janice Tanton. 40x60, oil on linen

For years, one of the things that kept me back from painting with oils, was an allergy to them. At the age of 12, my parents bought me a set of oils, which I dove into down in the basement of our bungalow in Oshawa. Less than an hour later, I emerged, hardly able to breathe, my eyes swollen, itchy and my skin all blotchy with hives, as I was trying to paint a picture of a horse. An hour after that, I was in a doctor’s office, getting a massive dose of antihistimines. Needless to say, the oils were packed off to the garbage while I was being packed off to the hospital.

Thirty plus some years later, after painting in years with watercolour and egg tempera, I thought there must be some “modern” solution for me to expand my media.

Brushes!When I took up painting with oils, I did a lot of reading on what might be the best way to approach it, from a health and useability standpoint. I think my allergy may have been to stand oil – but I’m not about to take a stab at it again without an epipen nearby!

The solution that I found was in M.Graham oils. Based with walnut oils, this did the trick for me! The medium is wonderful, silky smooth and the pigment quality is excellent. I love them, and I wouldn’t trade them again for my watercolours or egg tempera, although each of them does have a spot in my studio and my work.

The Palette with oil paints
Typical palette setup with M.Graham paints

The walnut oil is non-yellowing over time, unlike some other drying oils, and I find that there are many ways that I have been able to avoid the use of heavier solvents with the walnut.  It seems to clean up very well with Murphy’s oil soap, and the M Graham alkyd medium is an excellent way to work through lightening the consistency of the pigment-rich paint.

Overall, I love my “new” medium and the way that the oils are performing. The happiest thing of all – is that I can actually use oil paints now without having a terrible allergic reaction.

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