Oily fish and oil paint


Black Scabbard Fish – if it’s not oily, it should be.

Reviewing the many health benefits of eating oily fish I was encouraged to read that “Among people who abuse alcohol, fish oil may offer protection from dementia” which is lucky, because I may occasionally slip into that micro niche of people who ‘abuse alcohol’ and no one enjoys an anchovy more than I do. So voluptuous consumption of tuna and salmon will form a key part of my strategy for getting older. They’re also jam packed with Vitamin D which helps keep Covid away, so for the while we should all be eating plenty.

Oil paint, on the other hand, really has no dietary value at all; which does not mean we should dismiss it; it contributes to our health in other ways, particularly if we paint with it*. Take dementia, in one study researchers found a 73% reduction in the onset of Alzheimer’s in those engaged in the arts and crafts. We know that learning new things is a brilliant way of maintaining neuroplasticity as we age. We also know that when we paint we are constantly learning, it’s one of the reasons we find it so engaging.

If we take the holistic view that anything that contributes to our well being also contributes to our health, painting is most assuredly potent and certainly preferable to a handful of pills from the quack. I can tell you from daily experience that the buzz and whirr of a room full of honest artists painting a model is a powerful tonic and visibly contributes to their well being. If we paint, we have a purpose, even if locked in our studios the vista before us is infinite and beckons.

Whilst you could say that of many activities, unlike active sports and more physical arts where our skills degenerate over time, painting, along with writing, appears to be something we get better at the longer we do it, regardless of age. We may have to adapt, Matisse ended up doing cutouts and drawing with long sticks from his bed, still he found a way and his eye was never lost. Monet never lost his eye even though he practically lost his eyesight, he painted on, overcoming his difficulties and contributing towards what would become abstraction.

If we’re lucky, we may even exhibit and sell, the business around an exhibition can be quite gripping, hobnobbing with artists and collectors is immense fun and any funds returned from the exercise certainly contribute to our wellbeing, and so to our health.

Good habits put in place early in life support us throughout the journey. Our art habit, often neglected when things like family and career get in the way, will always be there to pick up and continue. Like fresh Nieuwe Haring from Holland there is immediate and vivid pleasure but it is the long term benefits that bring the real reward.

*As a side note, linseed oil, marketed as flax seed oil, is sold in health food shops to those who cannot eat fish because it has the precursors of Omega3 fatty acids in it, the very fats that are so beneficial in oily fish. Linseed oil is, of course, the medium generally used in oil paint.