Art Treehouse Newsletter – May 2019

News About Artist Materials & Techniques!

Spike Lavender, Linalool, and Beer

As the GC-MS (Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry) showing all the natural plant oil components of our Oil of Spike Lavender indicates, our spike oil is about 40% Linalool. It turns out that Linalool is a prized component of certain beers made in Wisconsin, and is actually one of the aromatic compounds that give hops their unique flavor.  A few weeks ago, we were browsing the isles of a local health food co-op and in the beer cooler, the word “Linalool” appeared.  What a surprise to find the largest constituent in spike lavender listed as a beer brand!

The makers of the beer discovered a wild, Wisconsin hop that contains about two and a half times more linalool than any commercial variety – and they decided to brew a beer with it. The beer has hints of lilac, pear, and apple, along with a pleasant bitterness. Unlike other hoppy beers, the Linalool beer aromatics will evidently develop over time, becoming richer.  The beer makers have named the hops “Northern Discovery”.

Technical Resource About Historic Painting Techniques

For those who enjoy researching the technical aspects of historic painting techniques, the National Gallery in London is a great resource.  There are 36 annual bulletins searchable by author or artist, and they have been publishing since 1977.  Each bulletin is a wealth of information. The National Gallery Technical Bulletin draws on the combined expertise of curators and conservators, bringing together information about artists’ materials, practices and techniques.

Rosemary Oil From Tunesia

Our Oil of Rosemary is of exceptionally high quality, 100% certified organic from Tunesia. In the photos, the Rosemary Oil we sell is being processed by farmers using steam distillation – before it is shipped to us. Recently we have received several emails from people interested in Rosemary Oil and its use in painting – one for a video documentary on oil painting, the other for use in dissolving resins.

Oil of Rosemary was relatively well known among painters up until about 100 years ago, when some makers of art supplies still sold it, but its use was gradually eclipsed by turpentine and naptha (OMS). In the early 1800s, it was commonly referenced along with Oil of Spike Lavender in artist handbooks.

A complete GC-MS (Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry) showing all the natural plant oil components of our Oil of Rosemary is included with each bottle we ship. For artists who love historic oils, Oil of Rosemary is definitely worth exploring!

Titanium Dioxide Debate 
Titanium Dioxide is by far the most common white pigment in use world wide.  Its popularity is due in part to a wide range of applications where different versions of the pigment perform in diverse situations.  However, there is a continuing discussion as to whether titanium dioxide should be considered hazardous, and therefore regulated.  At least one US art materials manufacturer has chosen to list it as a hazard.  However, there is at this point no universal consensus on the issue.  The problem is that titanium dioxide is a suspected carcinogen by inhalation in large quantities over an extended period of time.  For a working artist using white titanium pigment-in-oil paint, the hazard exposure is essentially zero.

The European Union is currently debating the issue, exploring classification and labeling, but they acknowledge it is only a concern for respirable dust.  Many of the EU member states believe that EU classification is not an appropriate measure to address the general dust concerns described for titanium dioxide.

In a world where there are genuine urgent concerns related to toxicity, sustainability, and socially responsible usage of materials, perhaps labeling needs to be based on proportionate and effective regulatory resolutions, rather than the extremes of exposure outside of the range of normal usage.    

As always, there are many interesting articles about artists and techniques on The Art Treehouse web site – including Mike Strickland’s new post about “BIO-THINNER”!