Globally we are coming full circle, returning to biobased materials. In fact, many early artist materials were based on natural oils, rosins, waxes, gums, polysaccharides, and other materials. One of the largest global manufacturers of raw paint materials (with offices in 50 countries) recently commented: Raw material suppliers recognize that oil and other extracted materials are finite resources… hence the attractiveness of biobased or biorenewable materials. Now we are coming full circle, returning to biobased materials.

The Art Treehouse Biobased Artist Thinner has been receiving a great deal of attention recently, in part because it solves the problem of toxic fumes for artists teaching classes and offering workshops. Artists and teachers are excited to find a thinner that works so well, and that is not petroleum based. The term biobased generally refers to a product that is made, in whole or in significant part, from renewable agricultural sources such as plant, animal, and marine materials. Coming from farms, biobased products have a distinct advantage in terms of biodegradability, toxicity, and pollution.

Oil of Spike Lavender, Water-Washed Walnut and Flax Oil, Rosemary Oil, Canada Balsam, Beeswax, Damar and Copal, and Oil of Clove all fit the definition of biobased artist materials. Globally, there are many examples of the cultural shift to renewable, safer resources. Recently, in the Netherlands, artists came together to promote artistic research at the Urecht Science Park. They are working to provide innovative perspectives about environmental harm. Sustainability is their central focus, attracting a great deal of discussion and research. Their Zero Footprint Campus is made up of several artistic projects and a team dedicated to growing the impact of the project.

Reebok will bring their plant based footwear to the market later this year. Reebok’s philosophy is to ‘Be More Human,’ and sustainability is a core part of that belief. The car company, Audi, has announced their new clear coat is biobased, and Mazda, has successfully launched a new bioplastic which will mean that its cars no longer need to be painted with toxic chemicals. Scientific research is rapidly developing biobased solutions to creative problems. Artists will benefit from the less-toxic materials and greater performance characteristics. Society will benefit from the sustainable and renewable materials for use in classroom and workshops settings. Coming Full Circle, the world of art will be enriched and renewed – by reclaiming, advancing and improving the materials that have been central to art throughout history.