The Importance of Sustainability in the Art World

Insights into Sustainability in the Art World.

Put together by the team at Victory Art, assisting emerging Central Eastern European artists.

In recent years, businesses within all industries have aimed to be more sustainable. Due to the intense climate change and rapidly declining air quality, there has been a big leap into creating more sustainable business processes, using recycled or ethically sourced products, and opting for solutions to business problems that are deemed “environmentally friendly”.

Within the art industry, artists are continuously creating, which requires the use of various materials. This article uncovers the harms of unsustainable art creation, the sustainable brands that artists should consider buying their supplies from, and how to promote one’s work without leaving a significant carbon footprint.

Choosing Sustainable Art Supplies

As an artist who hones their passions with the goal to make a living from creating and selling art, the supplies that are used must be picked with careful consideration.

Sustainability in the Art World: Female painter wearing white at work in her studio
Lilian Szalai, a Hungarian Abstract Expressionist

The Trouble with Oil Paints

Although yielding excellent results and the ability to blend colors with ease, the method of oil painting is not the most sustainable. This is because turpentine, the spirit that thins the paint, releases toxic and flammable fumes which has proven to be harmful to humans, and the environment when disposed incorrectly.

Oil paint itself contains chemical components that are highly toxic in large quantities and make use of color pigments that contain lead, a metal that can negatively affect the body’s enzymes that are present inside the cells of organs.

Alternatives to Traditional Oil

However, oil painting is one of the most popular mediums due to its flexibility, and deeper pigments. Nonetheless, there are many alternatives.

Some artists have discovered that mixing oil paint with other oils delivers a similar consistency that would be yielded from the use of turpentine or traditional paint thinners. Lavender Spike oil, Rosemary oil and vegetable or cooking oil can all be used for oil painting, making the method of painting much more sustainable.

In addition, acrylic paint is an excellent alternative to oil paint, and the consistency can be thinned by water, as opposed to the odorous turpentine or other oil paint thinners.

The Sustainability of Brushes

Conventional paintbrush bristles are usually made from polyester, a synthetic material known for its strength and resilience. Unfortunately, this material is created by a chemical reaction between coal and petroleum, two fossil fuels that are classed as nonrenewable.

Furthermore, it is stated that most paintbrush manufacturers create paintbrushes with handles made from nonrenewable natural gas. Due to this, majority of paintbrushes are not sustainably created, and contribute to the intense loss of fossil fuels that has occurred as a result of humankinds need for efficiency, and large amounts of energy.

Eco friendly brushes are much easier to find in recent times, and are usually made of bamboo, corn, or animal hair. Bamboo paintbrushes are the most sustainable, as the plant is able to regenerate itself easily, and quickly and can grow an average four feet in a day.

Despite the fact that they tarnish much quicker, they are biodegradable, will decompose much faster and thus is much less harmful to the environment.

Sustainability in the Art World: Female painter wearing white at work in her studio

A List of Sustainable Art Suppliers

Some sustainable art suppliers include:

Natural Art Supplies

Natural, organic and eco-friendly art supplies run by a team that goes out of their way to source and create products that have the least harmful impact on communities, individuals and the environment. All the products available on their site are described to be natural, organic, and fair trade. You can check out their website here.

Natural Earth Paint

The company supplies an eco-friendly alternative to conventional paints. The founder, Leah Fanning took inspiration from cave painters and would go into nature to harvest natural pigments herself and discovered that using natural pigments and oil created more radiant paints. The company offers a range of supplies including fine art supplies, children’s paint kits and face paints. Click here to discover more from this green business.

Celtic Sustainable

This brand has a three-piece brush collection called “Eco Ezee”, made from sustainable materials like bamboo. The brushes come in three different sizes in inches, with a price range of £4.95- 6.95 per piece. The company also sells interior wall paint, wood finishes, natural insulation and rainwater harvesting canisters that can all be found on their website.


The brand offers beautifully crafted, yet slightly more expensive sustainable paintbrushes. The brushes are cruelty free and made from bamboo or other vegan materials and come in reusable packaging. This link leads to a complete, multipurpose brush set that would be perfect for any sort of painting.

Sustainability in the Art World: Female painter wearing white at work in her studio

Additional Considerations around Sustainable Art Supplies

When investing in more sustainable art supplies, there are several things that must be taken into consideration.

Opting for more sustainable materials shows great advocacy for protecting the environment, but it has been proven that some sustainable materials may have shorter life spans than synthetic ones. Therefore, it is important to consider the entire life cycle of the product, in addition to the materials it is made from.

Purchasing materials locally, will assist in lowering the possible carbon footprint, as less harmful gases will be emitted from going by foot, bus, or car in contrast to air freight.

Lastly, it may be difficult to have all sustainable materials as some may be more difficult to obtain or slightly more expensive than unsustainable materials, but even the smallest investment and steps towards more sustainable art creation helps. Furthermore, recycling, and repurposing easels, canvases, paint boards and brushes will create much less waste.

Final Thoughts on Sustainability in the Art World

In conclusion, there are numerous ways that an artist, or anyone interested in painting, can make their creation process more eco-friendly.

Being environmentally conscious and making small changes are switches in terms of supplies will contribute greatly to the sustainability of our planet as a whole, and the movement towards more sustainable living.