Medium for asthmatics

Hello everyone,
First of all I have to say that I am happy to have found this teacher and this forum.
I am starting in oil painting and before buying new paintings I would like to use some that I have at home and are in good condition. I am asthmatic and have serious problems with solvents. When I can I will buy the Geneva colors but at the moment I wanted to know if anyone has experience with "Gamblin Solvent-Free Gel" could it be combined with clove oil to make it dry more slowly?
Thank you very much in advance for your help and guidance


  • I would not bother with gel.  Just use straight walnut oil for a medium and a bit of clove if you want the paint to dry slower.  
  • Thank you very much GTO! my only fear is loading the paint with too much oil. I would like to prepare them in a jar with the right density to work with and I don't know if it is very prudent to do it using only oil. For now I discard the gel and I thank you for the advice.
  • You can still premix the paint in a jar using only the oil.  I used an eye dropper to slowly mix the paint on a pallet then once I got the consistency I wanted I put the paint in small mason jars.  However,, now I just thin the paint down as I need it.
  • Thanks for your advice GTO! it's been very helpful. 
  • The gel is basically a medium mixed with  colloidal silica/Cabocil/Fumed silica. That is a powder that hangs in the air, and could be bad for your lungs if you were mining it.  It mixes easily with materials and converts them to putties, if you add enough,  Boat supply stores, and fiberglass supply stores sell it.

  • Thanks TamDeal. The info you give is very precise and helpful. By now I'm trying to use only oil as GTO recomended. It's working well so far. I prefer If I can avoid other chemicals.
    Anyway all the info is very wellcome!!! thanks again!!!!!
  • I paint solvent free as well. I think the Gamblin solvent free gel actually speeds drying. I’d agree with walnut or safflower oil and added clove oil. 
  • @GTO : What ratio walnut to clove would you suggest? Like the ratio in the Brush Dip?
  • @majamaja I use 2 teaspoons in 4 oz of walnut oil.  I don’t bother with adding extra clove for umber paint.   My brush dip is plain walnut oil.  I also clean my brushes with walnut oil .
  • @majamaja one other thing.  Because umber will tend to sink and dry earlier than the other paint I am trying Asphaltum paint in place of umber.  It’s a bit more transparent but it doesn’t sink into the oil ground.
  • GTO

    An extract of MITRA’S view on Asphaltum....

    Bitumen is not a pigment as it is soluble in the solvents and binders into which it is mixed. As such, it is more like a dye that simultaneously functions as a binder. The major issues with bitumen used in oil paint are multifold. First, it remains forever soluble in organic solvents. It will always be disturbed by future cleanings. Second, it loses mass over time and can fissure and fracture into dark unsightly islands often called alligatoringOne can see historical examples of this fissuring where the aperture between islands can be as much as ½ and inch. This can be even more problematic if bitumen is mixed with pigments that do solidify though oxidation and can cause extensive cracking that extends throughout the paint layer and is not just a surface defect. 

    The colorant is organic and may fade a bit over time but that is a non-issue compared to the disastrous effects that can happen when using it admixed with oil paint. This can cause global cracking issues.


  • Another option, probably came up, is to use water misable/mixable oil paint.  I bought a ton of this stuff, both Cobra, and WN because there were some stout sales.  I got onto it because I noticed that Daniel Sprinck uses them in classes.  He uses regular oils otherwise. I don't gather he promotes or prefers them. He seems a pretty careful guy, as I guess most successful painters are.  I haven't much experience myself.

    One thing I noticed about these paints is that they seem to be promoting versions that have a heavier pigment load than regular student paints, but the prices are frankly cheap.  Like a 10 color Cobra lot for 50 bucks.  Or 2 dollars a tube at the Michaels clean out.  These things are increasingly required at art schools, so maybe the thinking is that they can't have two lines, one bad one good (student/artist), so they will hit a middle ground.

    I thought they has some stuff in them like acrylic.  But they are just oil and pigment, and yet water mixable, and usable with regular oils or mediums, if you wish.  No value drift when they dry, I am told.

    Daniel Smith has a line also, if you want something a little jazzier still.

  • edited May 4
    Am I correct in saying there are real and substitute Asphaltams?  Stephan Bauman is a fan.  Though he does tend to say that if one's art is any good, the conservators will figure it out. :)  A process already underway for the likes of Hawkney.  So it isn't easy to predict what the next disaster will be.

    The Rembrandt Asphaltum I have is pigment PY110/PR264/PG7.  They claim highest light fastness, and paint film durability.  Though it may not have the characteristics GTO is looking for.

  • The MITRA quote is referring, I think, to the historical (18th - 19th century) pigments of asphaltum and bitumen. I accept that it is a poorly-aging pigment at best. However, the current oil paint “asphaltum” is a modern concoction of different pigments which mimic the color and value of the historic one (which always looked to me like dark burnt sienna so why bother with asphaltum?), but in a more archivally sound way. I think manufacturers make several different combinations of the pigments, as TamDeal touched on.

    …I also have asthma, and solvents bother me, especially turpentine. So, I just paint with oil (sometimes with a little alkyd) and clean brushes in oil, followed by soap and water.  I do not have any experience with Gamblin solvent-free gel. I sometimes think that every single painter will have a different optimum combination of materials which will suit him or her best.

  • To me, I got the idea that the gel is basically beneficial because it  does not cause the paint to thin.  So if you are doing impasto, or just like the paint as it comes from your tube, you can get some medium advantages while not having to thin the paint itself.   The thing about thixotropic additives is that they thicken a mixture but do not dry it out.  Any time you add a pile of dry stuff to a pile of wet stuff you can add so much that it becomes "dry".  But thixotropic additives, can be plaster like, while still being somewhat wet.  Which is a cool combination of characteristics.  They thicken, but unlike most things of that type, they hold moisture in place, while it remains wet.  I have not tried the gel medium, but it contains thixotropic materials.

    The thing with "medium" is that the most common ones are quick drying.  Like Liquin.  Of course there are a far wider range of mediums than Liquin.  But it is amazing how pervasive that stuff is.  And I do not know of an alternative to that for quick drying, that is not somewhat nasty. 

    Seems like there are a lot of lucky alternatives if one wants paint to dry slowly.
  • GTOGTO -
    edited May 4
    @dencal @TamDeal @Desertsky  I checked out what is the “asphaltum “ that I am using and it is gamblin made of Mars red and bone black. PR191 and PBk9.  So I guess it’s not actual asphaltum.  
  • Hi GTO -  I just realized that when I use siennas or umbers, I always mix a little Liquin (alkyd with driers) in it. I have been doing this for so long that I don't even think about it. It prevents sinking in. But now I am thinking of trying the asphaltum instead, so I can just use linseed oil. What do you think? Can you reccommend any brand? Advise against any brand? I am in the US. Thanks. 
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