I had a very unfortunate but timely realization that the pastels I have been using these past few months could be creating a toxic environment for myself and my family. I just happened to be looking around for any safety warnings about pastels last week and found that the dust it creates with pigment and fillers is unsafe for a home environment. Yikes. But I take comfort in two things: I didn’t use them for very long (two drawings) and most of the colors I used were from my “nontoxic” box.
I had to do some painful tasks this week. I had to throw away my in-progress pastel drawing. I then decided to rid my in-home studio of all toxic materials that I will probably never use again (even if they were in a box stored somewhere, all of it is gone). If it had dangerous components and could be airborne or create fumes when in use, it is gone forever. I have gradually been taking steps toward safer working materials since I got pregnant with my son, changing the way I work for the safety of my family. This is just one more thing to cross off the list. I will not be using pastels as a woman with more potential pregnancies and children. It is not worth it.
Of course, this is disheartening. Now what? I searched for options. I didn’t even want to use nontoxic pastels because it still makes dust. I was really enjoying where my work was heading and how densely the pigment sat on the paper, so I wanted to find something that could match the intensity. (For those wondering, it is the pigment that is the real danger in most art supplies.) I didn’t want to use watercolor for these drawings even though it is safe (they already have watercolor versions). I have decided to try oil pastels, which I have never used in my life. They do not create dust. They are glorified crayons. I have no idea what to expect, but I do expect my work to change. Who knows, maybe this could be a good nudge in the right direction; but if it is not, there is no going back.
My husband, he is such a good art husband, he ordered me some oil pastels on eBay in the midst of this detox meltdown. We didn’t want to sink a lot of money into a new set of oil pastels if they weren’t right for me. So I sit and wait for them to arrive. I clean my house thoroughly. I purge my studio of more useless things. It feels good. Hopefully, the new pastels won’t be thrown into the useless pile after giving them a try. Because if this doesn’t work, I’m unsure of my next move.
It has been tough to realize I could have been harming my family’s health (pastels are considered safe if the studio is not in your house and you wear a mask and studio clothes which are worn only to work in), and that as a result I cannot do what I do, and that I have to make a big change. I welcomed the initial change to pastels when I stopped oil painting (too much for my schedule as a mother, needed something quicker), but this is one that feels more like an interruption. Why even bother? I ask myself. I told my husband I should give up or take some time off. He said oh please don’t. I must make art somehow. Maybe in my push to try yet another way, I will find another invisible step which I didn’t know existed. There is a whole new territory for me to wander through.