I painted with enamel for about four hours today and now I am sick. I have washed twice but I can still smell the fumes on my skin and taste them at the back of my throat. My eyes are dry, I have a headache, a dull throb right at the top of my skull where only enamel fumes seem to reach. A familiar, lung-wrenching cough has returned.I get these side-effects despite new, health-protecting work habits. It would be worse without them. I used to paint with little or no protection and I painted until I was sick, or fell asleep in my clothes. It made me sick but I liked it. I liked to feel the effect it had on me. Now I care about my health. I don't want to damage my body any more than I have already. I keep a few clean shirts on hand in the studio to change into so the fumes that are absorbed by the fabric don't sit too long on my skin. I rub vaseline into my hands, and around my mouth and nose. It stops the fumes burning my skin. I also rub it inside my nostrils to protect the sensitive membranes there. I've bled inside my nose because of using this paint and for years afterwards, whenever I blew my nose, there were traces of blood. I wear a mask, with chemical filters. None of these things, alone or together, stops the effects but they would be much worse without.I still love enamel paint. Even when it's dry, it appears to be seductively, wet. When I'm using it, I mix it so the viscosity is smooth and glides on in an erotically suggestive way. I love its creaminess, the way it settles after the brush has left the surface. When I apply it, the action is more like stroking than brushing. I've been using enamel – with certain brushes – for so long that it feels like an extension of my fingers. I can make it do whatever I want, without conscious thought.I can't help myself. I have to keep using it. It's a beautiful, self-destructive addiction.