Mediums, Solvents, and Flashpoints

Medium1   Summer is coming, so I want to caution you all that if you are still using turpentine-type spirits with your oil painting, remember that they can spontaneously combust at 86 degrees fahrenheit–just a mere 86 degrees!  They have the lowest flashpoint, coupled with the highest volatility rating, of any other kind of combustible. So if you leave a paper towel or rag with turpentine on it in your studio, you could have the recipe for a fire.

You can buy a special can and lid made specifically for oily rags, but the least expensive way to ensure safety is to have a metal trash can outside, away from your house, with a little water in it; then drop your rags in there each day when you finish work. Later, you can take the lid off and let the water evaporate, rather than polluting the ground or pouring it down a drain to get in the water system. Then just throw the dried rags in the trash.

Solvent vapors can cause cancer with prolonged exposure, so don’t keep medium and brush cleaning solvent containers open on your taboret any longer than you have to. The less exposure you have over time, the healthier you’re going to stay. If you can’t do without spirits, choose the least damaging kind and keep it stored in an airtight container.

There is a new one out with a flashpoint of 200 degrees, called Turpinoid Odorless Mineral Spirits Light–this doesn’t mean that it’s safe to leave it uncovered, or to breathe deeply just because you can’t smell it, but it is a better alternative because of the lesser fire hazard. Just remember that Turpinoids are not for use in oil painting. They are just for cleaning brushes, because they tend to have residues that can inhibit or prevent complete curing of your paint film.

And remember that solvents of any kind are not for cleaning hands! No, No, No! Instead, use any kind of oil (olive, coconut, baby oil, etc.) followed up by soap. Same with brushes. Remove as much paint as you can from your brushes, then use olive oil to remove the rest, followed up by soap. And speaking of soap, some of you probably already know about this and have some under your sink, but I’m a “newbie” and have just tried Murphy Oil Soap for the first time–I love it. There’s a reason why it’s been around for more than 100 years–what an amazing soap! It so easily and quickly removed oil paint residue from my shirt, that I tried it on my brushes. It cleaned them faster and more thoroughly than anything else I’ve ever tried, and left them soft and beautiful with no residue–and Murphy has 98% natural ingredients and is non-toxic. We keep learning, right?

It is easy and just as effective to create beautiful oil paintings with non-toxic mediums like Oleogel, or Oil of Spike Lavender mixed with artist-grade linseed/stand oil. If you want to glaze, Oleogel (an inert fumed silica) will do that just as well, or better, than toxic mediums made with turpentine. Then use cleanup materials like olive oil, safflower oil, or Oil of Spike Lavender (behaves like turpentine only better), followed up with Murphy’s. Find out more about these products here:

The Chelsea Classical Medium, Lavender Spike Oil Essence, is handcrafted using the finest quality lavender which is imported from Spain. A safer natural alternative …

Oleogel is a firm thixotropic gel made with linseed oil and fumed silica. Add to thicken colors for creating impasto effects that do not sink. Contains no driers, so …

Buy Murphy’s Oil Soap, 32-Ounce on FREE SHIPPING on qualified orders


Covino Portrait1P1070431PaintingWorkshopCovinoFrank4-2015

Dear Artists and Friends,

It is with ineffable sadness in our hearts, that I must report this news.  Our friend and long-time art teacher and mentor, Maestro Frank Covino, passed away suddenly on Tuesday, February 16, 2016, after being pronounced “cleared of cancer” just last week.

If I may use a bold simile, his loss feels like looking up at the mountains in Sugarbush, where Frank worked hard to build the home he loved, and seeing that the grandest of summits has disappeared from our sight.

Here is a note from his wife, Barbara Covino, that you will all want to read:

Subject: It is with a deep abiding sorrow in my heart that I write this letter…forgive the delay but it has taken time to believe this is true…

Beloved friends and family , one and all,

After two days of profoundest shock, and countless tears I realize I must write you.  It is with a heavy, heavy heart that i must inform you that dear Frank has passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday night, February 16th.  It was quick and he did not suffer–a death we would all prefer–but he had been progressing so well, it was a gut-wrenching shock that still is unbelievable.

I truly cannot imagine a world, or a life without him…32 years of happiness and adventure.  Life was never boring with him!!! What an amazing talent, a brilliant man with a wealth of knowledge, a gentle and sensitive man who had to excel in everything he did, and was thus an inspiration to all who knew him.  He encouraged others to strive for excellence and to believe in themselves, giving them the tools to create a positive reality in their lives, whether it be art or health.  We all can repeat that golden maxim: IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO AMELIORATE! Wise encouraging words, those.

But he was more than the sum of his parts; he was a genuine force of nature, a real Renaissance man, but above all else, he had a kind heart and a very great soul. We all loved him so; there will never be another Frank.  But I know it is now time for each and every one of us who was touched by his life, to take that spark and pass it on.  He gave us wings and it is time for us to fly…Make him proud!!!

I am too choked up to continue writing.  God Bless each and every one of you who had a place in his heart…family, friends, students….He loved you all sincerely and without guile….

We are in the process of collaborating with the family and planning both a smaller family funeral as well as a larger set of celebrations of his life and legacy open to all who loved him–one in Vermont and one on Long island.  As soon as the Covino south clan and Mark and Jennifer and I hammer out the details, I will email you all, soon as can be done.

We are going to give that wonderful man a send off he won’t soon forget!!!

Love and blessings , Barbara Covino

PS: PLEASE FORWARD THIS to everyone you can think of. It has grown into a cast of hundreds, and forgive the delay but it has taken time to believe this is true.


I have just completed stage 3 of the sun/stand oil referred to in previous posts (see stages 1 and 2). I had to wait longer than I thought, and just beat the monsoons. We had a dust storm yesterday and about three drops of rain, but I had brought my oil inside by that time. It took three weeks in 112-117 degrees (Can you say “hot?”) instead of the two weeks I anticipated to get the desired thickness.

Remember that linseed oil starts to degrade and break down at about 350 degrees F, and art supply linseed/stand oil is heated to as much as 470 degrees F for expediency, making it a very slow drying oil. My oil might have made it to 120 degrees maximum and the oil traces beautifully, will dry quickly in my artwork, and has the viscosity of warm honey:


At first, I thought a funnel would be necessary to get it into my small-mouth bottle, so I lined one with a small Ziplock sandwich bag (corner snipped off), to keep the sticky oil from ruining my funnel:


It turns out that the lip on my bowl poured in a beautiful, dribble-less stream, so I was able to dispense with the funnel idea. I simply poured the new stand oil back into its original linseed oil bottle, using a Q-tip to drag the last of the stand oil out of the bowl and into the bottle–I didn’t want to waste any of the good stuff. I ended up with the bottle half full of good medium after filtering out the moisture and impurities during the prior stages of the refining process.

I can tell you that this oil will do its job extremely well as a binder–I had a very hard time trying to clean it out of the bowl. I first tried olive oil, and then a Scotch Brite scrubber. Neither would budge its strength around the oil line where it had been sitting for weeks. Finally, I soaked the bowl in very hot soapy water and then scraped it off easily with a single-edge razor blade.

You could stop right here with this process and be happy with conventionally using your lovely, perfectly refined stand oil, an “unobtanium” at any art supplier; OR, you can continue with me on the path of adding marble dust, making glair, etc., a process I will be outlining in additional posts.

A great price on “art supplies” like alcohol, nitril gloves, and petroleum jelly can be found at Masune First Aid and Safety,  An excellent price on a  box of 100, individually wrapped single-edge razor blades can be found on Amazon,

Until next time…

The Arizona Renaissance Art Guild does one-week workshop intensives three times per year, and in addition, we get together to paint all day on the third Saturday of every month.  If you are in the Phoenix Metro area and are interested in finding out more or possibly joining our colony, please let me know through this blog.  ~Marsha


Greetings.  I have returned to my blog after much jumping through hoops to upgrade our Internet service, a task that is not always so easy when you live outside a metro, have no access to wireless, and need to climb a mountain and run wire (in conduit so the animals don’t eat it) to receive a signal.  But here I am at last, and my husband and I are very happy to have a new and faster service!

See my first post on this topic, “Archival, Solvent-free…,” dated 5/14/13, where I had experimented with making my own stand oil (Stage 1) by cleaning the mucilage out of it first, from the directions given in Louis Velasquez’s book. My only regret so far is that I did not start with TWO bottles of flaxseed oil instead of just one.  It is now a beautiful linseed oil and I would like to save some of it in it’s present state but, if I do that, I won’t have enough to make very much stand oil (Rewind would be so wonderful).

English: Flax The seeds of flax are used to ma...

English: Flax The seeds of flax are used to make linseed oil. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In this post, I put it in the Arizona sun (Stage 2), using Velasquez’s method, to make stand oil that is a faster-drying oil than can be purchased at art supply stores. The commercial stand oil in art stores has been overheated and, as a result, becomes slow-drying.

I expect that, at 108 degrees with less than 10% relative humidity, my oil will not even take two weeks–but we’ll see.  I must do it now to beat the monsoons that usually arrive in early July, because water would be an enemy of this oil.  Here is the process:

Sun-Thicken the Oil to make Stand Oil (aka Sun Oil)

1.  Pour cleansed linseed oil into a white, opaque container to ¾-1” depth (not shallower, or the resulting stand oil will wrinkle the paint badly), NO WATER contamination. Set the dish inside a perimeter of ant powder, if necessary.  I found out the hard way during Stage 1, that some kinds of ants LOVE this oil with a fervor you wouldn’t believe until you’ve see it!


2.  Cover to keep out most detritus but leave gap/clearance allowing air circulation—I layered a piece of breathable organza to keep out even the teeny bugs, some screen and then put the lid on partially.  The screen seems to hold the lid up enough, especially with the lid canted.


3.  Expose oil to direct summer sun as much as possible, stirring briskly for about 30 seconds, twice daily, more frequently in very hot, dry areas.  Stirring aids in the even and complete oxidation of the oil.  I am guessing I’ll have to stir mine twice as often with something small that doesn’t waste too much oil left on the stirrer.

4.  After 15-30 days, depending on location and season, it will thicken, the hotter and dryer the weather, the faster.  Let it thicken to the viscosity you prefer.  The only rule is don’t let it get so thick that it forms a skin or globs that resist stirring.

5.  With a funnel and a cotton ball, filter the oil of dust/insects. It should be clear, palest yellow.  Place a loose cap on the jar as it expands and contracts when in storage as it continues to dry.

6.  IMMEDIATELY CLEAN THE WHITE DISH, using non-solvent thin linseed oil or olive oil to remove the sticky sun oil, wipe, then wash with soapy water. If you fail to do this, it will not come off and you’ll be discarding your otherwise perfectly good and useable dish.

After my Stand Oil is done (hopefully in two weeks), we will continue on to Stage 3 of the process of making what promises to be a most wonderful medium.

The Arizona Renaissance Art Guild does one-week workshop intensives three times per year, and in addition, we get together to paint all day on the third Saturday of every month.  If you are in the Phoenix Metro area and are interested in finding out more or possibly joining our colony, please let me know through this blog.  ~Marsha