The next moment was the beginning of the end of a productive day for me. I had inadvertently created a Rube Goldberg machine of epic proportions. Those of you who know me are thinking "You're a klutz, so what's different?" This was a memorable spill even for me! The clip light decided it didn't want to be attached to the easel. On it's way to the floor, it grazed the foam core panel I was using as a back drop, knocking it over onto the asters. The small foot of the vase was not up to the task of staying upright so over it went, asters flying hither and yon. Water everywhere. The aforementioned foam core went sideways over onto the taboret, and somehow sent my Venti red-eye with cream into a spectacular spiral, the white lid flying off about halfway through the trajectory. Coffee all over me, the wall, and the carpet but luckily (narrowly) missing the ipad. I'll spare you the details of the clean up.
Segue to the point of this post: Studio safety. Accidents happen in the studio and you need to be prepared. Luckily, all I needed were a broom, paper towels, soap and water. But what would've happened if the materials particular to painting had been involved?
Most dangerous are the solvents we use. Combined with paper towels or rags used for cleanup during and after painting, things like turp and linseed oil become potentially deadly! There IS such a thing as spontaneous combustion and it happens more often than you think. Solution: drape a used rag you want to use again over a rail or dowel to dry completely. It must be spread out, not bunched up. I keep a 5-gallon bucket with water in the bottom next to my easel. I throw my used paper towels in there. The water prevents combustion. When the bucket is eventually full, I take it to our hazardous waste disposal site. You can also use an empty house-paint can, available at the hardware store. Just make sure to seal it every night. If you have a place that's larger where students and/or other artists will need to dispose of their rags, get a red hazardous waste can that tightly seals through a hazmat disposal service. Make sure you keep your solvents sealed and preferably in a metal closet or enclosure of some sort. Our local fire department does periodic inspections and they are ok with the metal cabinet I got at the home store. They also appreciate being able to know where hazardous materials are actually kept in a structure.
There are so many chemical compounds these days, you might want to consult the manufacturer's websites WHEN YOU GET THE PRODUCT, so you can be prepared for the eventuality of a spill. On hard surface floors, linseed oil soap and water or Murphy's Oil Soap should do the job if you can get to it quickly. My old studio had very old hardwood floors. I'm not sure what kind of finish was on it, but I spilled some studio medium (turp, linseed oil and damar varnish mixture) and didn't notice it til the next morning. It had eaten away the varnish in some areas of the spill. The best solution is to get a piece of cheap linoleum keep your solvents in that area of the studio. Use brush washers and containers with weighted bottoms to help prevent spills.
- For oils, dispose of any rags/towels in the same way you would your painting towels. If the paint gets on your clothes, I strongly suggest immediate wiping with a baby wipe (one of God's gifts to artists). If that doesn't work use Linseed Oil Soap (also amazing for keeping your brushes in great condition as well as cleaning them). It won't harm most fabrics. Apply, rub in and rinse well. You can also go "old school" and get Fels Naptha soap at the hardware store.
- Casein paint cleans up with ammonia. If its Permasol Blue, forget it - not gonna come out and will stain everything else in the area. It has magical expansion powers. Cut out the offending spot and hide the hole with a throw rug.
- Crushed pastel: An immediate vacuuming is the best answer but if it gets into carpet nap, sometimes placing a strip of duct tape on the pastel (without rubbing) will pick up most of the pastel dust. Linseed soap and water on a cloth and DAB (not rub) can be very effective. I read a blog today that suggested pressing PlayDoh to pick up glitter and I think it may work well for pastels!
- Acrylics, Watercolors or Gouache: Hopefully not one of the staining pigments. Baby wipes or linseed oil soap and water should do the trick.
Barrier creams like Liquid Gloves help you avoid absorbing any potentially hazardous pigments through your skin and one application lasts through a couple of hand-washes. Rubber gloves are another option. I prefer tight fitting ones for the most natural feel.
Insurance for your studio is always a good idea. If disaster befalls, at least you can get reimbursed and replace what is lost. If your studio is in your home, insurance will most likely require you to do a rider on the policy. If you're in a commercial space, your landlord may require liability insurance but probably not require one for the contents. Check with your agent.
It's easy to forget these when you're anxious to get to actually painting, but studio safety is crucial wherever you are and is worth the investment of time.