This part is specific to those of you who use traditional materials to make your artwork. The supplies we use today are much MUCH safer than those the old master's used, but there are still chemicals and materials you need to be aware of for your own health and well being (as well as those around you). I'll list the materials by category along with the method to keep yourself and others safe:
Any kind of powdery drawing materials pose a risk of inhalation The best way to avoid doing so is to work in a ventilated area, and to also vacuum thoroughly after your drawing sessions. If you make a LOT of dust regularly, wearing a heavy duty particle mask (these are pretty cheap) will also protect your lungs. NEVER USE SPRAY FIXITIVE INDOORS UNLESS YOU HAVE A VENTILATED SPRAY BOOTH.
The biggest thing to remember when you're painting is that your skin is an organ. The next thing to remember is that the next thing affected after your skin is your liver. Although oil paint is less dangerous than it was in the past because of synthetic materials, there are still many hazardous materials to be aware of. Heavy metals are the ones to be most aware of in oil painting. Flake white, for example, contains lead and should never come in contact with your skin. The best way to keep skin contact at a minimum while painting in oil is to wear gloves and an apron. The other thing you should be aware of while using oils is the solvents. The solvents are flammable and also need to be used in well ventilated areas because of fumes. NEVER stack oily painting rags on top of each other to dry, they can spontaneously combust (I've seen it happen folks, it will freak you out and it's extremely dangerous!) Other types of paint such as watercolors can also be dangerous because of the pigments. Keep in mind: the higher the grade the paint, the purer the pigments and the more dangerous they are for your skin.
Artisan Crafts and Sculpture
This category has a lot hazardous to be aware of. Particularly with any type of clay materials, be aware of what they are made of. Silica, the basis for most traditional ceramics, is horrendously dangerous for your lungs. A condition called silicosis (for which there is no cure) can develop if precaution to limit and avoid inhalation of dry clay materials is necessary. Enamels and glazes also need close inspection for the presence of heavy metals (chrome, manganese, cadmium, and arsenic).
Silicone dust (from dry clay and dry clay making materials)
PAY ATTENTION to what ingredients are in glazes. Most glazes are perfectly safe in their dried, hardened states (except for barium) but in their liquid states, they can be highly toxic and should never be handled without gloves or outside of a well ventilated area. Be aware of chemical reactions that occur when heat is applied to materials as well.
Be kind to your body
Sit up straight! You can probably hear those orders coming from your mother to this day Posture is vital not only to look nice, but if you spend extended periods of time making artwork your poster is important. If you sit while you work, posture is still something to be aware of. Too often we work hunched over, or too close to whatever we're doing. I developed significant eyestrain from being too close up to my paintings and literally forgetting to blink for minutes at a time (it was not a fun time ) If you stand while you work, be sure to practice good posture and invest in a cushioned mat to absorb the hardness of the floor to protect your feet, knees, and back. If you work on a computer, be careful to make sure that your wrists and shoulders are relaxed because carpal tunnel is a terrible monster. One thing I've been forcing myself to do is when I'm drawing to keep 12 inches of distance between my face and the paper. It keeps my eyes from having to focus so hard and also keeps my back and shoulders relaxed.
If you have to do any kind of lifting, be extremely careful to lift with your legs, not your back (this means squatting instead of bending over to pick up something heavy...the muscles in your legs are more powerful) I made the mistake of ignoring those rules just one time and herniated a disc lifting a bag of clay materials. Trust me guys, it's not worth hurting yourself to get something done quickly, it took several months for that injury to heal
As a rule of thumb, don't eat and work at the same time. Yes, yes, I know, it can be hectic at times and multitasking is an important skill, but if you're much less likely to eat paint while folding in a sandwich if you separate both tasks. Never prepare food in your workspace either. If you're working from home, keep the art out of the kitchen. Need lots of water? You've got a sink in the bathroom, right? Extra awesome if you've got a tub too. Second, drink from cups with lids or from bottles with lids. A.) You're less likely to spill, and B.) you're MUCH less likely going to accidentally take a sip of your painting water or dip a brush into your tea.
Kids & Pets
It goes without saying that if you're working with a hazardous material, you should probably try to limit the exposure kids and or pets could have to them. My kitty cat Princess was an enormous admirer of my paintings, so much that she enjoyed sitting on them.Those of you with cats can probably understand the "if i fits, i sits" mentality of our feline friends. And bless her little furry soul, she would try every chance she could to drink out of my watercolor pans!
Being careful to put things away when you're not using them, and hanging paintings to dry out of the reach of little hands will save you from stress migraines . If the wee ones belong to you, treat your studio like you would any other potentially dangerous part of the house and childproof to your heart's content.
Be safe while you create!=Xadrea