12 x 16
More times than you'd believe, I've had people tell me that a friend, relative or acquaintance of theirs used to oil paint, but quit because it was too toxic. Now, I'm often told, they use acrylics instead.
I find this perception of oils bizarre. There is nothing about oils that is more toxic than acrylics or even watercolours and pastels. All of these mediums use the same pigments, just different binders. Oil pigments are bound with a drying oil such as linseed or walnut; acrylics are bound in acrylic ( a plastic); watercolours and pastels are generally bound in gum arabic. So a cadmium red oil is dangerous and so is a cad red watercolour, acrylic or pastel. It's the cadmium that is deadly, not the binder. This means that all painters, regardless of their medium, should avoid skin contact with their paints. I use nitrile-coated gloves when I work and I bark at my students when they put a brush end in their mouths.
What is toxic about oil painting, is the solvent that is often used for thinning oils and cleaning brushes. But it's entirely possible to be an oil painter and never use a solvent or to keep their use to a safe level. Many painters use only an oil such as linseed or walnut to dilute their paint enough to move it around on the canvas. And brush cleaning can be done entirely in soap and water, or by using a container of a cheap oil like canola to dunk the bristles into and swish the paint residue out, and then following that with mild soap and water. For those who want the swift clean up of solvent, it's possible to limit the amount of time that the solvent container is open so that its evaporation and indoor pollution are kept to a small amount. This may seem unacceptable to some, but they should remember that acrylics dry by evaporating ammonia-containing stabilizers and formaldehyde preservatives into the air. This is far from harmless.
So whenever I hear oils being bad mouthed, I make a point of defending them. Their reputation is undeserved and painters who steer clear of them out of fear are missing out on a wonderful experience. Spread the word!