I’ve been seeking sustainable artists’ paint for years…. then I bumped into artist hana: painter, chemist, entrepreneur, environmentalist and super-geek. She’s invented a plant-based, plastic-free paint, Placrylic™ – at last!
How it happened
During lockdown hana wanted to paint but she couldn’t bear to use unsustainable, toxic solvents, especially in a confined space. This got her exploring alternative colour sources, from blueberries to basil. 1000 plants later and hana was in the lab testing pigments for light fastness, simulating 100 years of exposure in a few seconds. The result is Placrylic™, a fragrant, nature-based paint and gel medium – problem solved!
What is Placrylic made of?
Conventional acrylic paint is a thermoplastic, typically made by mixing earth pigments into a synthetic polymer emulsion. Fast drying, the paint hardens when dry, and it releases cancer causing chemicals like formaldehyde into the air.
However, Placrylic™ is a patented artist paint, made using plant pigments, derived sustainably from food waste, dried plant waste, pest plants and hardy plants that thrive in harsh conditions. The pigments are mixed with a plant emulsion. Placrylic is 100% titanium-free, plastic-free, marine friendly and safe for use by artists.
An invitation to the launch of a new paint at The Placrylic Art Fair
hana invited my daughter Holly and me to the National Trust’s lovely Middlethorpe Hall to attend the Placrylic Art Fair. It was a warm welcome, fires roared, glasses tinkled and conversation flowed.
We were given a tour of the exhibition by hana who shared the ecological drivers behind the paint. Using a limited pallet of yellow, blue and green, a group of artists put Placrylic through its paces. Check out their work .
A group of guests were invited to try out a colour and I got pink made from jackfruit. As with any new material, you have no idea how it’s going to behave. I’ve been using oil paint for over 40 years, it’s second nature. However the planet’s health takes priority and one thought stayed with me: Placrylic is not damaging the ecosystem. I had to try the range.
Buffet and talks
After the calm of the ‘paint-in’ we headed over for a delicious buffet supper and hana hosted talks: the first was Dana Thomas, British Vogue’s Sustainability Editor. She spoke about her latest book, Fashionopolis, which delves into the evolution of the slow fashion movement. It’s a great read!
Following Dana, Veronica Sekules, founder and director of the radical GroundWork Gallery, explained how she founded the gallery. Addressing climate change and the goal of environmental sustainability shape the gallery programme. It’s in King’s Lynn, Norfolk and we’re absolutely going to visit!
What a fantastic event and the beginning of something new and exciting.
A painter’s dilemma
Back in south London I retreated to my studio to experiment with Placrylic. Oil paint is a visceral, responsive medium; the colour is incredible, but it’s toxic. As an environmentalist I’m compromised. I was always careful, avoiding cadmiums, and I recycle, using the backs of old canvases, filtering paint out of solvents and taking them to the recycling centre once they were solid with pigment. But I’m at odds with my ethics and it stopped me painting professionally for over 10 years.
Suddenly I was using paint formed of the very thing I value: nature. The circle is complete; materials have meaning.
My practice circulates around themes: ‘new places’, ‘flows’ an exploration of suspended forms, from pollen to planets and ‘words and diagrams’. I’ve also started to use collage (materials from the bin). Something is emerging….
Is a change of habit the way to net zero?
If we’re to reach Net Zero, we must let go of what we’re accustomed to and enter a phase of experiment. To change a habit is like running up the down escalator. Habits are hard to break and extend to fast fashion, fast food and fast travel. Reversing habits will take a conscious act of will from all of us.
If we’re to curb fossil fuels we need to make personal sacrifices until the full scale innovations in renewable energy, biodegradable materials and circularity are with us. If all the things we consume could be planet-positive, what a beautiful world it would be!
artist hana has helped me to address the contradiction between art and protecting the environment. From materials to image-making, there’s a new path opening up.
“’tis a very pretty place…”
Middlethorpe Hall has achieved a graceful transition from country house to first-class hotel without losing its character. “’tis a very pretty place…” Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, August 1713.