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View Full Version : What do you do to protect your hands and lungs?


gofish
04-08-2004, 11:51 AM
Hi,
I'd be interested to know what pastel people use to protect themselves from the dust and how they feel it works for them. Here's what I've tried so far:

I've used Gloves In A Bottle for my hands, it works fairly well but, maybe because my skin is so dry, I have to apply it much more frequently than the suggested every 4 hours. I've also used Invisible Care cream offered for sale at Dakota Arts. It's a great moisturizer and offers some barrier properties, but maybe not to the degree of Gloves In A Bottle. Of course, there are also vinyl or latex gloves but I find them uncomfortable for lengthy use, and usually, before I realize it, a hole appears somewhere letting pastel pigment in to mingle with my sweaty gloved fingers. I do wear a vinyl glove fairly often though (I don't like latex, nor can I tolerate (dry skin again) powdered gloves. I seldom see pictures in books of pastel artists using gloves. I guess I should say I worry more about my very (understatment) dry skin more than I worry about the toxic quality of the pigments.

Plus, I'm very interested in knowing if anyone wears a mask, and about ventilation. It seems as though my nose drys out and tends to bleed after working around pastel dust for even a short period of time. Also, I tend to have a mild cough the next day. I have a mask (with an exhalation valve) now but I'm going to have to force myself to use it (get used to it) as I don't like the feel of it or the odor inside the mask. In my pastel class no one uses a mask, but I can assure you there is a lot of dust floating around even though the instructor forbids blowing on your work.

Thoughts and suggestions appreciated,
Georganne

Kathryn Wilson
04-08-2004, 12:11 PM
Hi Georgeanne - good question you brought up! I've not used anything on my hands - they aren't dry like yours and I don't seem to have a skin allergy to pastel dust yet. I do use a wet cloth to clean my hands every so often.

As for dust, I don't use anything here either. I tried the mask and couldn't get used to it - so now I leave the windows open, paint out-of-doors or pound my painting outside every so often.

You might try using sanded paper if you aren't already - this type of paper tends to hold the pastel better, but I still see a pile of it on my easel anyway. Another suggestion would be to try underpainting before you apply pastels - I gather you use less pastels that way.

Artistammy
04-08-2004, 12:23 PM
I hate masks so I don't wear one rationalizing I only paint very part time. I tried gloves but in the summer your hands sweat & that's uncomfortable.

nancymae
04-08-2004, 12:25 PM
Hi Georganne,

I have extensive!! lung problems due to a dr. screwup on medication (caused blood clots to my lungs..6 years ago)...and only have 75% of my lung power left...which I am working on increasing by taking up playing the Irish tinwhistle..but THAT is a different story!! :-)

Ok...I do my pastels ALWAYS on an easel. I know some people do it at a desk, but that builds up pastel dust for me. I also use either sanded papers or sueded mat board as my supports. I really like the Colorfix stuff...haven't tried Wallis due to the price, but I will sometime. I NEVER blow my dust off the surface...THIS IS VERY BAD FOR THE LUNGS!! I merely grab my cheap dust mask and tap the back of the board to dump the extra pastel off my surface. I also use physicians gloves for my hands. If you don't want to use it on both hands....just try your writing hand....that seems to work for me...but when I am in my studio, I usually wear gloves on both hands...due to my messy nature. Then, if I have to go grab the phone or answer the door, I'm not transferring my dust all over the house.

Lastly...I clean up my area right away after I am done for a session. I use a damp paper towel to clean the shelf off my easel..and the surrounding area. A damp sponge mop to clean the floor.

These are all very good ideas for painting plein aire with pastels....there is sooo little mess...and I am not bothered by the dust AT ALL!! Of coarse...you still don't want to blow on your surface then either!!

I hope I did not scare you from trying out pastels.....once you try them, you will be hooked!!! I only do many of these things due to my decreased lung power....boy...once you lose lung power....you NEVER want to go through that again!!! But I think many full-time pastelists...like Jackie Simmonds...do some of these same procedures when she paints.

I'm sure others will chime in with their procedures. They are sooo many knowledgeable people around here! We are VERY lucky to have this place to learn!

Nancymae

jackiesimmonds
04-08-2004, 02:01 PM
I do not think it matters a jot what anyone else does. I am vain...I have lovely nails these days and want to keep them that way, so I use a surgical glove on my painting hand, and if it gets a hole, I quickly replace it. But for years, I used nothing at all. You must do what suits you.

As for the bleeding nose, and slight cough the day after painting with pastels........this is NOT normal, it is very dangerous, and clearly YOU MUST USE A MASK, you are obviously somewhat allergic to the dust, and you are damaging your body. NEVER MIND WHAT ANYONE ELSE DOES. You must listen to your body. If you are determined to work with soft pastels, then work at an easel at all time, and always wear a mask, one of those little inexpensive ones from the chemist shop has no odour, it might feel a bit claustrophobic, but your body is telling you that you MUST wear a mask.

If you do not want to wear the mask, then you have to try either oil pastels, or else a wet medium like gouache or acrylics, (or oils tho the solvents might aggravate your nose too.) Oil pastels are fun when you get used to them,and you can get marvellous results with them.

PLEASE BE SENSIBLE AND do not damage your body for the sake of using pastels .

Jackie

SweetBabyJ
04-08-2004, 02:01 PM
Hi,
I'd be interested to know what pastel people use to protect themselves from the dust and how they feel it works for them. Here's what I've tried so far:

I've used Gloves In A Bottle for my hands, it works fairly well but, maybe because my skin is so dry, I have to apply it much more frequently than the suggested every 4 hours. I've also used Invisible Care cream offered for sale at Dakota Arts. It's a great moisturizer and offers some barrier properties, but maybe not to the degree of Gloves In A Bottle. Of course, there are also vinyl or latex gloves but I find them uncomfortable for lengthy use, and usually, before I realize it, a hole appears somewhere letting pastel pigment in to mingle with my sweaty gloved fingers. I do wear a vinyl glove fairly often though (I don't like latex, nor can I tolerate (dry skin again) powdered gloves. I seldom see pictures in books of pastel artists using gloves. I guess I should say I worry more about my very (understatment) dry skin more than I worry about the toxic quality of the pigments.

Plus, I'm very interested in knowing if anyone wears a mask, and about ventilation. It seems as though my nose drys out and tends to bleed after working around pastel dust for even a short period of time. Also, I tend to have a mild cough the next day. I have a mask (with an exhalation valve) now but I'm going to have to force myself to use it (get used to it) as I don't like the feel of it or the odor inside the mask. In my pastel class no one uses a mask, but I can assure you there is a lot of dust floating around even though the instructor forbids blowing on your work.

Thoughts and suggestions appreciated,
Georganne


I don't wear gloves, either, I just wash my hands often, and always apply more lotion. My skin's quite dry now, due to age, but gloves interfere with my already limited ability to "feel" the pastel in my fingers. As for dust- *shrug* I suppose I should worry it, but I don't. I blow if I gotta, tap when I think of it, vacuumn when I wanna, and wipe things down with a damp rag every couple hours.

A fairly cavalier approach, I admit, but I'm more worried about pastel on/in my light beige carpet than my skin or lungs.

Laura Shelley
04-08-2004, 02:52 PM
I've paid close attention to what various pro pastelists say about their safety practices, and they seem to go all over the map. Some *always* wear gloves and a mask and have an air cleaner going, some usually use a glove or a cream, some never bother with anything at all. It might depend on your personal vulnerability to dust, or just your personal machismo. :)

I'm sure we all know someone who uses power tools or solvents and shrugs at all admonitions to be cautious. A relative of mine, a very experienced carpenter, almost amputated a finger with a power saw because he did something he knew full well was dumb. Years ago, I heard about artists who fooled around with resin casting and managed to brain-damage themselves from the fumes when they didn't follow the directions. No one likes to feel vulnerable, and no one likes to think that their favorite pastime might hurt them. That's only human; perceived risk is in inverse proportion to familiarity. If you love certain materials and tools and you have been working with them for years, you may be very casual about safety. It may take a wake-up call to get you to think about what you are doing.

But as far as I can tell, having done some reading on the subject, pastel artists are not extremely high on the risk scale. Getting in your car and driving to the art supply store is probably *statistically* more dangerous than painting with the window closed for twenty years. Working in a grain elevator or a quarry is obviously much worse than casual pasteling for dust exposure, and that sort of job is certainly not an automatic death sentence. It seems that intense short-term exposure to dust--such as emergency workers at the World Trade Center--may be worse than low-level constant exposure, because it triggers a strong immune reaction. People who live in desert areas and farmers who plow the earth seem to be able to adjust to the dust they breathe because it doesn't come all at once.

What do I do about safety? I have a large window right next to my easel, and I open that on warm days. I often wear a glove on my painting hand, and I use a cream when I don't use a glove. I wash my hands constantly--I hate dusty skin no matter what it's from. I frequently pound the excess dust off my paintings outdoors, and I always spray fix outdoors. If I were painting all day, every day, I would probably spring for an air cleaner. It would take a lot to get me to wear a mask, but I wipe the area down with damp towels when I take a break. I don't have asthma or any other significant health problems, and I have young children in the house that I don't want to expose to anything nasty, so I take a middle road. It's a good excuse for chasing the kiddies out of the studio area, anyway. :)

gofish
04-08-2004, 03:24 PM
Thanks to all who have and will respond to my post-

I tried to address each individual with a comment of my own, but managed to click on a wrong button, and lost the whole lengthy post. I hate it when that happens, in other words as a newbie to these forums I've done this before .:mad:

So to reiterate in a more general way, your posts have helped me to know that I seem to be more sensitive to the dust than most, and probably need to be more cautious. I plan to wear a mask... ugh, and gloves because I love the soft pastels and want to get to know them before giving them up if it ever comes to that. I work at an easel tilted forward a little and I too clean up immediately after I finish working (only now I'll have a mask on when I do). I'm told you can get used to anything if you want something badly enough. ha!

The best to you all, this is a great resource,
Georganne

artbyjune
04-08-2004, 03:37 PM
I wear those inexpensive gloves all the time now because without them my nails get ingrained with duts, fingertips too.

I have disposable masks but I don't like them because they make my face sweat and if I wear my specs and a mask, the specs steam up. I too get a bit of a cough and a very dry nose inside...I should do something but I keep forgetting. I did try just sticking little bits of cotton wool up my nostrils (not too much so as to block airflow) and that seemed a reasonable solution. I keep forgetting to do it. Must remember!!

I have the gloves routine all sorted out now!

Dyin
04-08-2004, 04:11 PM
I switched to the oil pastels for the same reasons you are complaining about. I figured out the dry skin problem...I used baby wipes with aloe constantly and when I was done used soft soap to wash up with, it conditions your hands. I used a paper mask...it drove me crazy and I still managed to blow color out my nose for a day or two. I never got blood though...that is not good and could be indicitive of something else and you should have it looked at. I have no problems at all with the oil pastels and am glad I made the switch. And am happier with my results even, so a bad thing turned into a good thing. You can buy a little exhaust machine at any place that sells airbrush supplies...that is also fine particulate, and you place it by your working area, it sucks in and traps the dust in filters. Like Jackie says, it doesn't matter what others do...you could be doing some serious damage to your lungs, which may be over sensitive to any type of fine particulate. I would seriously consider exploring some other options for medium.

SweetBabyJ
04-08-2004, 04:17 PM
Good advice- especially that "See your doctor" part....

Paula Ford
04-08-2004, 05:14 PM
Georganne,

There is some really great advise here and thought I'd throw some more your way. Always be good to yourself first, you're the only one you've got. Being good to yourself also includes your hobbies which enrich and fill your life with joy. If you love soft pastels as much as me, you will work out the problems.

Don't blow!!! Baby wipes with aloe is a great idea!!! Thanks Sue for that. Leave a window open or paint outside. In time you will have forgotten all about the problems and will be painting and having lots of fun.

I'm babbling...sorry

Paula

Khadres
04-10-2004, 03:14 AM
The mask thing doesn't work for me either....I feel as if I can't get enough air in one and become panicky and the asthma starts, so I opted for a good HEPA filtered air cleaner that sits near my easle when I work with dry pastels. It really seems to help and I have almost no asthma reaction anymore as long as I use it. I have, however, begun to try to learn how to use oil pastels for those times when the world becomes determined to kill me off with viruses and such (I ALWAYS start with a "cold" and wind up with full scale pneumonia...last time meant a hospital stay and I HATE those places!). When I have that sort of thing going on, ANYTHING, even household dust can start a bad reaction, so I know there will be times when I can't manage the dry pastels. I wanted to learn a different method for pastelling at those times and OPs seem to be the ticket.

I have dry skin, too, and I cannot STAND adding more dry dustiness to my fingers...to me it's much like fingernails on a blackboard, so I wear the thin nurses gloves (unpowdered variety) and keep baby wipes handy for swiping up any accumulating dust on the easel ledge. I've gotten used to the gloves and they don't bother me.

You'll just have to figure out what your system will accept and go with that. I don't think normally healthy people have many problems with pastels; those of us who do just have to accomodate our needs however we can.

Good luck!

gofish
04-10-2004, 10:53 AM
Sooz,
Thanks for your reply. I don't have asthma, but have a history in childhood of allergies and eczema, and now that I'm older some of this is happening again. It's nice to know the HEPA filtered air cleaner works and so I may try one of those. It's been interesting to learn what everyone does.
Regards,
Georganne