Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Our pigments - protection or problem?

As botanical artists I think it is fair to assume that we all practice our art with an bias towards ecological responsibility. We surely all have a deep connection with nature? We choose to paint it after all. A consequence of this is that I have noticed that artists will go out of their way to use only ecologically friendly products for their work. For example, Alex Viamensky uses eco-repsonsible, sustainable, acid free, bamboo paper for his fine art prints

The toxic mud has now reached the Atlantic Ocean, about 500km 
(310) miles away from the area where the dam collapsed. Source: BBC
This week in the news I read about the sorry state of affairs occurring yet again in the Amazon. Not only did a recent study for IUCN come out this week, but there was also news about a wave of highly toxic mud which has swept through the Amazon towards the sea causing mayhem for ecosystems along its journey. This week the mud reached the sea. 

According to sources, the red mud burst out after a dam used to hold waste water from an iron mine collapsed. As a consequence, the environmental agency has fined the iron ore mine owners, Samarco, which is owned by mining giants Vale, from Brazil, and Anglo-Australian company BHP Billiton. The money from this is intended to be used to cover the initial clean-up and to offer some compensation to the victims and their families. 

An area of at least 9 sq km of natural vegetation was sadly destroyed instantly where the burst dam was, but the mud has caused even more destruction along the path of the River Doce, which meets the Atlantic Ocean some 500km (310 miles) away. To make matters worse, Samarco has reported that two other dams close to the disaster area are also at risk of collapsing. Emergency work to prevent another disaster is already being carried out.
Watercolour set by Bj√∂rn Laczay
So why am I talking about this incredibly depressing news? Well it made me wonder about our paint and where it comes from. How delightfully ironic would it be that the paint we choose to use as artists to represent the species we are trying to protect being part of the problem. Makes you wonder doesn't it? 
So this week I have got in touch with all the big brands to ask them what their policy is on this sort of thing, if indeed they have one. 


  1. Dirty humans :( how can we think we're the most intelligent beings on this planet when we don't live sustainably,over populate ourselves and hate anyone that is different to is? I think Douglas Adams is right....about the Dolphins!!