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Oregon: Creating Art Through Energy

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted July 27, 2017

Think of art, think of energy. We do:

Oil Gushes Art

With energy, colors are brighter, they last longer and they’re easier to use. Energy also helps artists create, fueling critical key processes lots of artists use. This includes a number of them who’ll be part of the “Art in the Pearl” event, a Labor Day Weekend fine arts and crafts festival staged each year in the streets of Portland’s Pearl District.

Download: Energy is Oregon

More than 100 artists participate, and the event draws thousands of visitors – to be entertained by local musicians, enjoy delicious food and be immersed in hands-on art activities, such as photography – a good place to start exploring the energy-art link.

Picture Perfect

Well advanced from the first digital camera in 1975, many of the digital single-lens reflex cameras professionals use today are made from magnesium alloy, a material produced using natural gas. To create the necessary shape out of magnesium alloy, it is first melted using a natural gas furnace then molded through die casting, a process that also uses natural gas.

The aerospace, automotive and electronics industries all use this lightweight, durable and corrosion-resistant metal. For photographers, having a camera made of this quality magnesium alloy can ensure their equipment lasts – even when working in tough and remote environments.

Now, photography is just one of the many different art forms “Art in the Pearl” visitors will see. Petroleum and product made with or from petroleum play a role in other art forms as well.

Putting Brush to Canvas

In the mid-1900s, artists began using synthetic paints with improved tints and shades, allowing them to mix colors in entirely news ways. For instance, many oil-based paints are manufactured from petrochemicals. Solvents that make paint easy to apply, along with polyurethane resins that help it dry, also are made from petroleum. Some paints even use plastic to give a glossy appearance. Acrylic paints use petrochemicals – they’re made from particles of acrylic resin suspended in water and pigment. This resin is derived from polypropylene, a byproduct of oil refining.

Oregon Shareable: Art Through Energy

To masterfully craft these paintings, artists use brushes made from natural hairs and bristles as well as petroleum-based materials. There is a never-ending assortment of paint brush styles, using everything from hog hair to camel hair to synthetic filaments. These synthetic materials consist of nylon or polyester, both manufactured from petroleum products. The type of brush an artist chooses often depends on the paint. For instance, badger hair brushes work best on oil paints. However, nylon and polyester work well with all paints, but particularly acrylics.

Energy and an Ancient Art

Another art form locals and visitors can enjoy while in Portland, including during “Art in the Pearl,” is glass blowing. Using glass as both a functional and artistic material dates back thousands of years, with the Syrians inventing the first glass blowpipes around 300 BC. But unlike their Venetian predecessors who used fire, today’s studios, like Live Laugh Love Art in Tigard, Ore., use natural gas, propane or electrically powered furnaces to melt the glass at temperatures between 1100 to 1400 degrees F.

Oregon Shareable: Fire and Art

Art is important to rest of the state as well, both to its culture and its economy. In 1993, the Oregon Arts Commission became part of the Oregon Business Development Department in recognition of its importance in the state’s economy and education. In fact, the impact of Oregon’s cultural nonprofit organizations, including arts, culture, heritage and the humanities, annually totals around $1.2 billion in sales. And the 19,000 Oregonians employed in this sector – a number equivalent to the state’s legal sector – brings in more than $460 million in income.

In all its forms, vibrant art is integral to the social fabric of communities all across the country. Oil and natural gas help in the creating of art and in making it better.

Oil gushes art, indeed.

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Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.