Turning Pollution to Paint

Reclaimed Earth Violet Photo

Through Gamblin Artists Colors I learned of a fascinating new project they’re involved in with artist and activist John Sabraw and Ohio State University. I found out about this new project in the Gamblin newsletter. I’ve been transitioning to Gamblin oil paints over the last few years, since I learned of all they’re doing to make painting materials safer for the artist and the environment.

If you’re unfamiliar with Gamblin, I suggest you become familiar with them. You can visit their website at https://www.gamblincolors.com, but here’s a brief overview of their founder, Robert Gamblin and his company.

Mr. Gamblin began his career as a pigment creator, working for the Smithsonian. He’d been hired to recreate paints for the organization’s art restorers that matched the formulas of the pigments originally used on the works they were bringing back to life. This led to a thorough investigation of the makeup of artist colors through history. I’m guessing he was shocked by the toxic ingredients of many of these historical pigments and surprised by the fact that today’s modern artists colors weren’t all that much better.

At any rate, after his time with the Smithsonian he decided to start a company to make artist’s materials and, in turn, their studios a safer place. Gamblin Artist Colors has accomplished much towards this goal with many of THEIR versions of traditional colors free enough of toxins to be packaged without the traditional warning labels. Their turpentine substitute, Gamsol, is virtually orderless and much less toxic than Turpenoid. They’ve developed a line of solvent free painting mediums and to help keep toxic pigments out of the landfills, they suck escaping pigment dust from the air during the paint making process, turn it into paint and give it away free, as Torrit Grey, a grey made up of all the colors of the rainbow (a bit different with each batch).

Now Gamblin is working on a Kickstarter project with John Sabraw and Ohio State, where they’ll take water polluted by toxic coal mine drainage, which kills aquatic life in streams and waterways worldwide (1,300 miles of these polluted waterways in Ohio alone), remove the toxins from the water, neutralize it and turn the product into pigments and paints. With the sulphuric acid and heavy metals removed  the clean water is returned to its original location where it can now support aquatic life.

During their process the captured heavy metals are reduced to iron oxides. This now non-toxic orange colored iron oxide is set aside to be dried and ground for use as a pigment. They’ve found if they heat the pigment 1000 degrees, it becomes a deep red. Heat it 2000 degrees and it become a beautiful red-violet. It’s this red-violet that Gamblin is turning into a limited edition artist oil color they’ve named, Reclaimed Earth Violet.

With our federal government currently relaxing pollution regulations for coal miners to reanimate this dying industry, this project seems well timed!

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