Does the smell of oil paints bother you?

john

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I was going to ask this over at the oil paint section, but then realized that anyone still painting with oils is probably not bothered by the smell. Not a representative sample. So it's here.


I was given some 40? year old tubes of Grumbacher oils. I painted a few paintings with them. They smell. My wife complains, I don't like it either and I think they are giving me allergic reactions. My eyes itch and water and my nose is going nuts.

I have walnut oil based paints that don't smell.

I hate to not use these tubes but I like having my paintings inside the studio. Right now I have to keep them in the garage and being that they are impasto will be there a while.

I've also painted with water based oil paints, and they also smell.

I don't seem to hear much about this. Maybe I'm just too senstive to it? How about you guys? Does the smell bother you? Maybe I've just been unlucky and gotten rotten paints?
 
Yes, oil paints smell. I try to keep them to a minimum by keeping the clean-up in a Solicoil jar and usually Turpenoid Natural inside it, but they will still smell. I've gotten used to it and also have plenty of cross ventilation. It's not that bad. At least not here.
 
Since you and your wife are complaining, seriously consider not using them. It may be the solvents you use. They maybe toxic to you both. See if an air filter rated to remove odors would help. "My eyes itch and water and my nose is going nuts." Those could be allergic reactions, they could also be the expected reactions to the chemicals in the solvent you use.
" Maybe I'm just too senstive to it? How about you guys?"
No, you are NOT too sensitive to it. Those reactions are telling you your body is being hurt by whatever it is you are using that causes those symptoms. It's simply not worth the risk to your health.
Check these websites and google for others they may help answer your questions:
oil paint smell question https://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/topic/oil-paint-smell-question/
What solvent do you use to clean your oil brushes? https://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1342051

I use some grumbacher--and a few other paints--that are that old. I'm chemically sensitive, maybe just to petro chemicals.
. The old paint does not bother me. I have no idea why. I do not use solvents, I use walnut oil to paint, if I need oil, and to clean brushes, wipe them on paper, oil to clean out, then soap and water. Best wishes, I hope you respond, and get more replies. There were several such threads on the old wet canvas, maybe you can google some of them, too.
 
Yes, oil paints smell. I try to keep them to a minimum by keeping the clean-up in a Solicoil jar and usually Turpenoid Natural inside it, but they will still smell. I've gotten used to it and also have plenty of cross ventilation. It's not that bad. At least not here.

Such a first world problem. Ewwwww, it smells a little....What a wuss I am. Actually, after having banished the recent paintings to the garage for a while and then bringing inside, it's not bad. Since I intend to do 90% of my painting outside like a proper beer drinking red neck, the odor is only a problem during the first week of curing, which will be in the garage.

It's just that I'm about to squeeze out large amounts of paint on the pallet for the ready to go lightwieght plein air thing. So not only am I thinking about setting them out in some order that makes sense for me, I'm thinking about the smell issue. These terrible first world problems of too many choices. When I was a kid all we had was dirt. Dirt didn't smell that bad. How can I even make it through this. :)


Edit: ntl, thanks, I just read your post. I think the answer is to use the walnut oil paints for studio work and the linseed for the plein air and then just keep the linseed oil based paintings in the garage for a while to outgas. I barely use any solvent and when I do it's Gamsol.
 
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I think I'll just go with the M Graham walnut oils after using up these Grumbachers. The M Graham's don't smell. They're just expensive. I also have acrylics I should use up. I just need to keep painting. This plein air thing is good for this as it forces me to complete a painting quickly and not fuss with it too much as I tend to do.

Maybe those open air acrylics are better but oils seem to blend nicer and they look better to me.
 
When I was still painting in oils I actually enjoyed the smell of oils. I only used the traditional 3-part medium: linseed oil, damar varnish, and pure gum turpentine. I was forced to stop when I lost my studio some 15+ years ago. The smell in a large studio space with 12-foot ceilings is quite different from the smell in a small apartment (at that time). I went back for a short time after abandoning my collages and returning to figurative paintings. I was frustrated with the results and decided to limit myself to drawing at first. From charcoal, I moved to full-color pastels and then mixed-media. You can develop an intolerance to oil and other art materials and chemicals. I went to school with and exhibited the work of an artist who was a print major in school. She developed an intolerance for most art media. She had to give up prints because even the water-soluble inks made her ill and she could not even enter a print shop for more than a half-hour. She switched to collage using non-toxic natural glues. She was only able to stay for her opening at my gallery for 45 minutes because the gallery was directly connected with 3 studios and we were all painting in oils.
 
Personally I love the smell of oil paints. They do have other drawbacks that I dislike, but their smell is no problem.
 
My nose doesn't work the greatest so that might be part of it but I don't notice any smell from my paints other then the paint thinner.
But my mother can smell them and is bothered by it as soon as she comes into the house. It seems to be the linseed oil that bothers her.
 
SLG, Brian, do you think you like it because of the association with painting? It's like, I like the rotten egg low tide marsh smell because I associate it with good things. I got clams and fish there, played around when I was a kid, etc. Most people say ewwww.


16ga yeah it seems to be the linseed oil, because even the water soluble oils smelled. They are made with a water soluble linseed oil.
 
SLG, Brian, do you think you like it because of the association with painting?

It could be. My uncle was an artist, and his entire house smelled of linseed oil. So to some extent I am reminded of childhood visits to his home, which I enjoyed because he was rich and they had a TV, my cousins had all manner of marvelous stuff etc. And we usually went there over Christmas and during school holidays, so it was always kind of magic. :)
 
I like it too, but not eggs. I certainly hate all smells of eggs, but maybe because I'm allergic to them. I even like the smell of Liquin, but I don't usually use it anymore because I prefer the Gamblin gel now, though it doesn't quick-dry the way Liquin does.

Maybe I associate oil paints with painting and that's why I like them, but I have no idea "why." I don't think they are as toxic as people make them out to be. I think it's the cleaners that are more toxic and I don't use heavy spirits, or keep those out in the open, so I'm not concerned. My painting room has a slight smell of oil paints, but it's not overwhelming. I have a strong sense of smell too. People say it's uncanny how well I can smell things miles down the street at times in other people's trash bins even. I know when there's a fire miles away instantly.
 
Yeah, I don't think oil paints are that toxic either. It's mainly the turps but the Gamsol is no big deal. I might be a little sensitive to VOCs. (volatile organic compounds) When my wife uses Pine Sol for instance I tend to react with itchy eyes and sneezing. I used to fix oil burners and maybe the fuel oil vapors sensitized me. Luckily I only did that for a few years....yuck. Stinky.

What probably made this bad this time was the thick knife applied impasto, and I had two 16x20 fresh canvasses of it in my small office/studio.
 
Some oils have alkali refined linseed (or other drying oil) as their drying oil, probably to speed the dry time. They don’t always post or label this on the tubes. Any alkaloid will give off an amount of fumes with some small measure of toxicity. Those old grumbacher oils may have some alkaloids. Really no sure way of finding out unless you know a chemist with resources. I have and use some of these old Grumbacher oils. I haven’t noticed any odd smells but my nose is old. Those old oils do have a good pigment load though. You are wise to move them to the garage, your body is telling you something, good to listen.

I find M Graham oils to be well worth the price, which is still better than some other high end paints. They have a very good pigment load and I like the slickness of walnut oil which I use for my oil medium with all my oils.
 
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Some oils have alkali refined linseed (or other drying oil) as their drying oil, probably to speed the dry time. They don’t always post or label this on the tubes. Any alkaloid will give off an amount of fumes with some small measure of toxicity. Those old grumbacher oils may have some alkaloids. Really no sure way of finding out unless you know a chemist with resources. I have and use some of these old Grumbacher oils. I haven’t noticed any odd smells but my nose is old. Those old oils do have a good pigment load though. You are wise to move them to the garage, your body is telling you something, good to listen.

I find M Graham oils to be well worth the price, which is still better than some other high end paints. They have a very good pigment load and I like the slickness of walnut oil which I use for my oil medium with all my oils.
I guess you meant alkyds, not alkaloids. The alkaloids are a class of nitrogen-containing compounds, usually natural products from plants. The best-known one is probably caffeine. Other examples are nicotine, strychnine, and morphine.
 
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