Today's Post is by artist, Deber Klein, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Find out how you can be a guest author.
Meet Bill, my husband.
Imagine him as he is right now, trimming my enormous topiaries into a gumdrop shape. More or less, anyway. Imagine that he is standing on the top rung of our aluminum ladder operating a long handled hedge clipper. It's a little frightening. No doubt about it, my husband Bill is a manly man but he's not Superman.
By the way, I should tell you that my hero is tottering unsteadily on that ladder two rungs above where the label says, "Don't step on the steps above this step" or something like that...
Now I have a couple of questions.
One, why do they put those top two steps on a ladder if you aren't supposed to use them? What kind of cruel joke is that? And the other question is addressed to Bill. Why is a guy who goes around construction sites every day making sure the workers there are safe and following safety rules, doing something dumb like that? (Yes, I know that was three questions.)
Where is OSHA when you need them?
I can't bear to watch him anymore. If he caught me on that ladder like that, I'd be down from there pronto. Double pronto. But no one ever minds me around here, especially Bill.
So I have now seated myself in front of my trusty computer for distraction.
I find myself thinking about how we all need to be constantly on the lookout for safety hazards. This is especially true in certain occupations. Construction, for instance. Never stand on the top rung of a ladder while operating something which has the power to remove a digit or your head.
As for us artists, the following are a few common sense things that apply to art safety. Though you may already know much of this, perhaps it's time for a motherly reminder:
1. Remember that many pigments and painting mediums are carcinogenic or toxic.
So, don't eat while working, wash your hands thoroughly using a fingernail brush when finished and wear gloves when necessary. And don't suck on things that have art supplies on them, like your paintbrushes. Silly, you're thinking? Well, rumor has it that Van Gogh did that, and it's what made him crazy. Of course, if he was sucking on his paint brushes he may have already been a tad off the deep end. So if you are tempted in the same direction, put that paintbrush down and go rinse your mouth out.
2. Good ventilation is an absolute must for the artist.
Especially when using powdered pigments that can become airborne like pastels, or hazardous chemicals such as brush cleaners and paint thinners. Even hot beeswax can be carcinogenic when breathing air containing it's vapors. I always say, "When in doubt, vent dirty air out." Actually, it's the first time I've said that, but it's sort of catchy. When fans and open windows aren't possible, you can purchase a fancy air filter made just for artists, or wear a high quality filter mask.
3. When stretching canvas or other activities which involve the use of a staple or nail gun…
don't point it at the girl sitting in the desk next to you. I have firsthand experience of this one, having been the girl in the desk next to a boy who obviously suffered from ADHD. Are you laughing at that? You could put an eye out with one of those things, you know. Seriously, though, especially when working with children, watch them closely! They aren't all trustworthy, believe me.
4. Dispose of art materials properly.
This goes for paint containers as well as solvents and other art materials. Most towns have days set aside for collection of hazardous materials. If you don't know about your area's arrangements, call the fire chief or the city garbage collection. For turpentine or other brush cleaning liquids, my friendly fireman says you can leave it outside (where kids and animals can't get to it) in an shallow pan and allow it to evaporate. Then discard it.
5. Don't leave chemically saturated rags or other flammable materials uncovered when you leave your studio for the night.
They can spontaneously combust. Keep them in a tightly sealed paint can, or discard them daily in a closed container outside.
6. Seal all flammable liquids when not in use.
Tightly cover your brush cleaning containers when you close up your studio for the day.
7. When working with heat tools, make sure nothing flammable is in close proximity to your workspace.
Fire is scary, and explosions are especially scary. Cans of volatile substances, paints, fibers and lint (if you make papers) need to be put away first. Make it your habit to clear those things away from your workspace before beginning use of any heat tools.
8. Be cautious when handling sharp objects.
Scissors, paper cutters and those hole pokers, for example. Medicine has come a long way, but as of this post, they don't replace fingers and thumbs with shiny new ones. (Of course, I did know one child who had a thumb replaced with his big toe. But his flip-flop days were over forever.)
In short, friends:
Know your mediums and appropriate art safety, and always keep a first aid kit handy, just in case. After all, if the stroller says "remove baby before closing stroller", or the hair dryer says "Do not operate while showering", or the battery driven toy car you just bought for your roommate at Lee's Super Dollar says "Not drive on top! Makes to exploding, noises to drive on freeway! Must have exercise careful!" don't even ask questions. Just do it.
One final thought.
Don't be resentful of Superman just because his only rule was "Do not mess with Kryptonite because it is the only thing in the whole universe that can hurt, maim or kill you!". Like I told my darling husband as I walked away from his shenanigans today, "You're not superman, honey. If you fall off of that ladder, it'll be a short, quick flight."
Until next time, be safe, be wise and be happy.