I am currently working on a series of 16 alcohol-based paintings, but as soon as I’m done, I’m tossing out the paints and going back to my beloved acrylics for good!

Artists have known for decades that painting with oils poses certain hazards. There’s lead in white paints and the cadmiums that give reds and yellows their vibrant, luminous quality have been linked to lung cancer. But for me, it’s the fumes given off by the solvents we use to move the pigments across the cardboard and canvas I typically use. Good ventilation is essential, of course, but even with a fan or open window, you breathe in toxins as you’re applying the paint and cleaning brushes.

I’ve donned the gas mask partially in jest. I take lots of precautions when using turpentine, mineral spirits and citrus thinner, but there are times when I need to paint with my fingers and hands or splatter the paint using spray and squeeze bottles. Besides the lead and cadmiums, I worry about absorbing heavy metals like cobalt, chromium, manganese and mercury (yikes!). I know many artists who wear latex gloves and protective creams, but they’re simply not viable options for Expressionist painters like me.

On a positive note, I am getting some amazing results, but on balance, my health is too important to risk given that acrylics are just as good and much safer to use.