Q. I seem to be having an allergic reaction to linseed oil paints; I get a headache and a general dizzy sort of feeling when I breathe the fumes for too long. My studio is in the living area of my house, and I was hoping to find an oil paint I can live with. Ive read that poppy oil has no odor and Id like to use it as a binder, but Ive found that the term odorless doesnt necessarily mean no fumes, so the chemical properties of this oil are of interest to me. Does poppy oil polymerize and give off gases while its drying down the way linseed oil does?
A. I cant give medical advice in this column, so I suggest that you seek the help of a doctor in order to establish whether youre allergic to linseed oil vapors, or are sensitized to them instead (theres a difference). However, since you use the word odorless, I could guess that youre referring to the solvent odorless mineral spirits and not the oil. If thats the case, switching to poppy oil wont help.
In any case, stop doing what youre doing until youve consulted a medical doctor who understands the toxicology of artists materials. If the problem persists, you might consider using a different paint: acrylic dispersions, watercolors, egg temperas, gouache paints and so on.
Cheryl Criss is a signature member of the American Watercolor Society and has won numerous awards, including the Edgar Whitney Award from AWS.