Mark Golden on Paint

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How Green is Golden?

27 May, 2010 (12:50) | General

I need to share right at the beginning, that almost all of our acrylic components are made of compounds derived currently from non-renewable resources from either the oil or gas industry.  That is a given.  So to speak of ‘green’, for some might seem a bit contrived.  But as I’ve shared with colleagues here, as we determine our direction for the future, what we’ve tried to accomplish being a socially responsible company.

Many companies talk of ‘green’ as the complete goal of their organization.  Enough ‘greenwashing’ has been perpetrated on the public to guarantee most consumers are overwhelmed trying to make sense of all the claims.  Others have assumed that any product marked as ‘environmentally friendly’ must be so, because regulatory agencies wouldn’t allow any claims that aren’t proven in fact.  I believe we all want to make the best choices for ourselves, our children’s children and our planet.  But how do we do it with so many competing claims.

Over the years, I’ve asked our company to do more than simply be green.  I don’t think that alone can create the future we aspire to.  The mission of our company “To grow a sustainable company dedicated to creating and sharing the most imaginative and innovative tools of color, line and texture for inspiring those who turn their vision into reality”, begins with what is to me, the most important concept in social responsibility… sustainability.  To me sustainability recognizes that first; we are only stewards for what we’ve created here.  That as such we are expected to leave the land, this place, the people, our community in a better condition than we found it.  That we expect those that follow us to do the same.  That this small community we’ve created here at Golden Artist Colors yet it is part of an ecology of our joined lives of our staff, our local community, the greater worldwide arts community and our planet.  And we are responsible, in some measure, if we are to grow within it, to  do all we can to sustain it.

For us that means several things.  Although we are fortunate to be able to draw wonderfully fresh water right from wells on our property at very little cost, we are also responsible to use this water as carefully as if we’ve had to pay dearly for it.  For this reason we have embarked years ago on a plan to reuse all our water.  We are currently at a level of 75% recycling of our water, and hope within the near future to be able to recycle all the water in our facility.

How we dispose of waste is as important as how we make our product.  We currently have nine different recycling waste streams here at Golden, including cardboard, paper, waste oil, batteries, plastic, electronic equipment, wire, cans, fluorescent bulbs.  Until we create a totally closed system, our waste water, lab chemicals and waste solids are monitored in a program to assure that these materials are carefully and correctly disposed of.   Internally we have systems throughout the facility to assure that we are collecting dust particles to avoid venting them to the outside air.  We have also installed air scrubbers throughout the shop so that we can maintain a healthy environment internally, without simply exhausting process fumes outdoors.

Part of creating a sustainable company is also creating a safe place to work.  One that recognizes the greatest responsibility we have to one another working at Golden Artist Colors.  Our folks within this factory have the greatest potential of exposure to hazardous chemicals.  Our first operational plan is to keep refining our processes internally so that we can eliminate the most dangerous materials in the work place and to replace them in our formulations with safer materials.  This obviously benefits both our customers and our staff. This requires significant resources from our R&D group as this must be balanced with the responsibility we also have to all the artists that depend upon us to protect the longevity and legacy of their work for centuries to come.  So in cases where we have not yet found suitable replacements for these potentially toxic chemicals, we need to make sure that we first provide passive mechanical means to reduce exposure of all our team.  These include the various scrubbers, hoods and dust collectors throughout the shop, but just as essential, and sometimes overlooked is just keeping the factory clean.  I’ve visited so many different factories and it is easy to separate those that maintain excellent hygiene and those that do not.  You can see it at first glance just looking down the aisles. Finally, where needed to reduce exposure to these materials even further, we require that staff use personal protective equipment, including gloves, masks and in some cases in working with pigment, full suits and respirators. We work hard to keep exposure to chemicals and pigments well below approved thresholds.

I think we are all aware of changes that occur to these chemical thresholds as new data is researched. Materials we once thought of as completely safe suddenly appearing with new warnings. So if we seem to be overly cautious, we are. Our greatest assets are the folks here, and we hope that as employee owners of Golden Artist Colors they will be able to enjoy in good health the fruits of their labors.

We’ve also expanded this caution to our labeling of our product for our customers. Although most companies have relinquished the labeling standards responsibility to other agencies governed by art materials manufacturing groups we have felt we could provide greater information to artists by using even more robust standards. We are confident that our products are quite safe for artists use, yet we maintain the stance that these are professional products and should be used in a manner that observes basic industrial hygiene. If customers choose to use other brands because they are not labeled as such or labeled with “non-toxic”, that is their choice. But the paints they are using are likely no safer than ours.

Many companies have chosen, because they make waterborne paints, to say their products are “green” and certainly waterborne is a more green alternative, yet I think we’ll just stay who we are.




Comment from Flora Doehler
Time: June 7, 2010, 10:56 pm

Your blog has some very important and interesting information for we artists about Golden, however I find it very, very difficult to read your blog for these 3 reasons:

1) the white text on black is really hard to read. Black on white is much easier to read on a screen.

2) san-serif text (like the text in your sidebar) reads more easily from a computer. Serif text (like your posts) is better suited for print materials.

3) The absence of paragraph breaks in your text makes reading it almost impossible.

If you could change these three things, your readers would thank you and your readership would increase.

Comment from Donnaj
Time: June 9, 2010, 12:06 pm

Are you trying to save electronic bytes? No seriously great article but please do us all a favor and break your post into something more readable onscreen. I am in total agreement with Flora the previous poster – use paragraph breaks. I like the high contrast of white on gray though.

Comment from Mark
Time: June 9, 2010, 9:37 pm

Sorry, Donnaj and Flora! I had to laugh as I looked at the text. We have just moved over to a new editor on the blog and it changed my type and for some reason moved everything together. I know I am known for long run on sentences but this is just over the top! I’m not sure about the black on white, but I’ll speak to our team to see how this can be reversed. Thanks again for your input! Best, Mark

Comment from Jay Fuller
Time: July 28, 2010, 5:14 pm

The reason these blog postings are hard to read is not because of the white type on dark gray background or the serif vs. san-serif typeface, the reason Mark’s postings are hard to read are because of line length.

Readability studies have shown that while reading we “chunk” the text into readable blocks or chunks. The optimal line length seems to be 7 to 9 words.

I suggest reformatting his blog software to a 3-column format with a slight increase in font size. Along with breaking the paragraphs into 1 to 2 to 3 sentence ideas. I did a quick mock-up to illustrate these changes at:

It is essentially a big screen snap reformatted.


Comment from Ramesh
Time: December 11, 2010, 10:23 pm

As you say it is difficult to be purist when paints depend heavily on chemicals. Even though per-capita paint consumption is negligible, it is good Golden is making their operations more sustainable.

I suggest Golden make the *willing* artists aware of waste created in the process of painting. I have heard painters use paper pallette and paper-towels for wiping/cleaning tools. In a painting session, one would clean the brush several times. It would be good if painters use less paper. I have always used cloth, did not feel it as cumbersome procedure.


Comment from Mark
Time: December 12, 2010, 8:40 pm

Ramesh, being green to me is simply about being thoughtful and present. Whether you use paper towels or cloth, its always about reducing or reusing. Dried paint so often becomes fodder for other work… a wonderful way to recycle. Best, Mark

Pingback from Golden Artists Colors follow the Golden Rule (Greenly) « Art of the Natural World
Time: January 28, 2011, 4:14 pm

[…] Impressive. Check out their website to find all sorts of info on how to be a green artist. And look here for an interesting blog by Mark Golden on realistic assessment of green manufacturing in the arts. […]

Comment from Alice Helwig
Time: October 26, 2011, 3:58 pm

One of my fellow painters is committed to oils, that is alright as to each their own. However, she has been making anti acrylic remarks and I don’t know how to respond to them. Of course there are toxins in both oils and acrylics in regard to some pigment colours. She claims that acrylics are more toxic than oils as acrylics continually give off gases while oils do not as a skin is formed over the paint. Could you direct me to information that compares oils to acrylics in regard to toxicity. Both of us are passionate painters and art educators. I’m in love with acrylics ( and especially Golden Paint) but would like to give my students correct information. I find that there are few classes in my area that address the materials and different methods of using acrylics. I’m hoping to fill that void. Thanks so much for your help! Sincerely Alice

Comment from Mark
Time: October 28, 2011, 3:20 pm

Dear Alice, thanks for the note and sorry that this continues to be an issue. We have been fighting against the mythology of acrylic paints for over 30 years. One would have thought by now that these issues have been clarified and well addressed. I think some of the best resources come from Michael McCann and Monona Rossol. They are both authors of significant books on materials safety for artists.

Acrylics contain a wider range of ingredients than do oil paints. The most significant amongst those materials is probably the Ammonia, that can be an inhallation irritant. As you mentioned the pigments are mostly the same within Acrylic and Oil other than the Lead White as both a colorant and a ground. Unfortunately, their is no other pigment for oil painters that produces as flexible a final dried film. Zinc White tends to be quite brittle and Titanium white while more flexible, doesn’t hold a candle to the Lead. The oil paints as they come out of the tube typically have few additives. The health concern in working with oils is that one often uses a solvent to clean and or thin the oil colors. You can use baby oil to clean your brushes and surfaces and then use a detergent with water to get the rest of the cleaning done, but most artists still insist on using either Odorless Mineral Spirits or stronger solvents to clean, as it gets the job done much quicker. For thinning their isn’t a good substitute in oils for using a potentially hazardous solvent.

Giving off gasses. I’m not sure what gas they are referring to. I’ve not heard of an offgassing problem for acrylics. I think often artists get confused with the wide range of plastics that are available on the market that can offgas. Acrylic is one of the most stable of all the plastics and art material binders.

So neither oils or acrylics get a free pass for potential health hazards. But toxicity is really a matter of not just the potency of the ingredient, but also the length of exposure and the route of exposure. Each of these materials can be used quite safetly, but that will be in the hands of the artist to determine. Please take a look at our website. It will have a great deal of resources that will much more completely answer your questions and hopefully the questions from your colleagues! Best, Mark

Comment from Alice Helwig
Time: December 8, 2011, 2:03 am

Thanks so much for this Mark.

I’m doing a ten week TV course for a local TV station here in Calgary on acrylic painting. You know that means I’ll be haunting your site for information. Thanks for being such a great resource!

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