(This is what the interior of Francis Bacon's studio looked like. WOW)
Unsafe studio practice can be a major problem for artists. These unsafe practices can lead to a shorter life span due to health problems associated with some of the materials artists use on a daily basis. An artist can't create art very well if his or her nervous system is destroyed from years of exposure to toxic materials and it is even harder to create if he or she is dead, right? Consider the fact that those around us can also be harmed by the materials we use daily and you will find that the issue of studio safety is of great importance.
Unsafe studio practices occur for several reasons. For example, many students pay big bucks for formal training in art, but often learn very little about studio safety as it is rarely mentioned (based on the students I've discussed this issue with). Self-taught artists are at a greater risk because they may not have access to resources that college students may have. This results in thousands of artists creating wonderful works of art in hazardous conditions.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to point fingers or play the 'blame game'. In other words, the schools are not the blame nor are the companies that produce art materials. It is on our shoulders to find out about the materials we use and how they may harm us (and others) if used in an unsafe manner.
I'm not suggesting that an artist should wear a gasmask, Kevlar body Armor, and other protective gear while working in his or her studio (though that would be interesting). I simply advise that each and every artist learn more about the materials they use and what to look out for if changes in health occur. You don't have to go crazy with protection in order to work safely.
A ton of information about studio and material safety can be obtained from the Arts, Crafts & Theater Safety (ACTS) website (www.artscraftstheatersafety.org).
ACTS provides a worldwide free information service by phone, mail, and e-mail providing: professional safety and industrial hygiene advice; copies of educational materials; referrals to doctors and other sources of help. ACTS publishes short data sheets (from 1 to 10 pages) on over 60 different technical subjects related to health and safety in art and theater. They will mail single copies of data sheets free to those providing a postal address.
Ways to contact ACTS:
Phone: (212) 777-0062
Mail: ACTS 181 Thompson St., #23n New York, NY 10012