Someone recently asked about “oil of lavender.” Oil of spike is an essential oil distilled from lavender flowers. It has been used in oil painting for hundreds of years. Of the three most commonly used solvents, oil of spike (spike lavender) is the most powerful, followed by turpentine. Mineral spirits is the mildest.
Oil of spike lavender has a very pungent smell that many find attractive. It’s used, after all, in perfume and aroma therapy. It doesn’t irritate the skin as turpentine sometimes can. Artists bothered by turpentine or even odorless mineral spirits, can use it as an effective replacement. Its effect in painting is closer to that of turpentine than that of mineral spirits. It dries rapidly and leaves no undesired residue. I use it, but rarely. Its solvent power is too strong. I paint in layers and it can affect existing paint layers if they are not thoroughly dry. Plus, it’s more expensive than turpentine.
But it can be a wonderful addition to mediums. I sometimes substitute it for turpentine in mine. It can be an excellent corrective when combined with ingredients that are too thick, like stand oil or sun-dried oil.
If you are sensitive to turpentine, try oil of spike. It’s available at most art material suppliers. When used, it fills the studio with its very pleasant aroma. I say it dries rapidly, which is true for all solvents. However, compared to mineral spirits and turpentine, spike oil dries much slower. This keeps solvent-thinned, fast-drying paint open–workable–for longer than the other solvents. This property can be important in some situations.