Colors: What’s Not to Love?!!

I was so excited to read this email from Gamblin and wanted to share it. So when I emailed Gamblin, Scott Gellatly, Product Manager for Gamblin, kindly gave me permission to reprint it here. Some of these colors are already on my palette, but I will definitely be adding some of these others. And when, at the bottom of their Notes they say, “contact us if (they) can assist you”, they mean it!

New Year Color Notes
You can probably guess our 10 most popular colors. Most likely, several of them are part of your basic palette.
There are many reasons that Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red, Alizarin Crimson, Yellow Ochre, Ultramarine Blue, and of course Titanium White are so valuable and therefore chosen so often. This newsletter is not about the “mega-stars” of the artist’s palette, it is about a few colors I feel could use more recognition.
Perylene Red
Perylene Red
It seems like I have spent my whole paint-making career showing artists alternatives to Alizarin Crimson. First, the crusade was to help artists find our Alizarin Permanent, which has a higher lightfastness. And now I would like to highlight Perylene.
Yes, I know its name does not playfully roll off the tongue the way Alizarin does, and perhaps its hard to figure out how to pronounce it correctly (pera-leen). But jeez, it is beautiful. It’s transparency has fire inside; add a touch of black and it smolders with sophisticated sexiness.
Transparent Earths: Orange, Yellow, Red
Our line of Transparent Earth Colors are quite beautiful and of incredible value because of their glowing transparency.
In contrast to the natural earth colors, the Transparent Earths are synthetic iron oxide pigments that are made solely to be transparent. So if you want an earth color that will give the warm transparent glow that you see in a Rembrandt, a Transparent Earth will get it done.

Detail: Rembrandt, Self-portrait as Zeuxis Laughing

Cobalt Green
Cobalt Green
The family of cobalt based colors is as permanent as an artist’s color can get. Yet Cobalt Green is the least chosen of the whole group. But it has certain uses that make it invaluable:
  • in dry country landscapes where the greens are very muted, such as in the American SW
  • in abstract painting as a green that has a beautiful restrained character
  • in portrait painting where the translucent flesh tones have a cool under-painting as in the Italian Renaissance

Detail: Orajio Gentileschi, Lot & His Daughters

Manganese Blue Hue
Manganese Blue Hue
Ultramarine, Phthalo, Cobalt, Cerulean, Prussian: is this close to the order of hierarchy of blues in your use of color?
My recommendation: no matter what blue you put first on your palette, Manganese Blue Hue should be second. Why? Simply because it is the blue that is the coolest in the spectrum of blue. Most other blues are warm blues or middle blues. And unlike Cerulean Blue it is very reasonable in price.
Lay a stroke of MBH next to one of Ultramarine Blue and you might for a second mistake the Ultramarine for a violet. I’ve always thought of Manganese Blue as a breath of fresh air, so clean in color, so light in spirit. It is always on my palette.

Karen Ann Myers calls Asphaltum her skin tone “secret weapon”
Sap Green and Asphaltum
One challenge in oil painting has to do with darks. Make a dark too opaque and those sections of the painting can look lifeless. But by keeping darks somewhat transparent they never seem “heavy.”
Is the dark you need “warm” or “cool”? If “cool” is the answer, then Sap Green is perfect for this purpose. An important use of Sap Green is painting the deep dark areas often found in landscape paintings.

Sap Green

Asphaltum
If on the other hand you need a warm transparent dark, then Asphaltum will do the job nicely. We originally made this as a custom color for Nathan Oliveira in the mid 90’s. He needed the emotional energy of real asphaltum but wanted a material that would age well. And today, artists like Karen Ann Myers are finding their own special uses for our Asphaltum.
Any White but Titanium
Last but certainly not least in importance I want to discuss white.
With Warm White and Cool White, we now make 9 different white oil colors. Each one has a unique set of qualities. Titanium White should be your choice only if you need a very high tinting strength opaque white, that is warm in color and moderately fast drying and a little bit stiff.
You might be best served by a whiter white, or a softer creamier white, or a more transparent white, or even a super stiff white… Below is our chart of whites to assist in choosing the white that best supports your painting.
If this idea is intriguing to you, please consult our newsletter “Getting the White Right.”
Please contact us if we can assist you in any way.
Have a great New Year of painting.
Advertisements

Blue….It Used The Be The Most Expensive Color on the Planet

Vigee-LeBrunCountess-KinskyExh-page

Vigee-LeBrunCountess-Kinsky

Blue is a color widely held to be most people’s favorite color. While some may find it cold, it’s psychological impact is generally thought to be serene, calming the mind and aiding concentration.

For the painter blue has always been quite costly. During the Renaissance true blue, sometimes called ultramarine blue, was five times more expensive than gold. Its color was derived from lapis lazuli, a rare, semiprecious gemstone mined almost exclusively in Afghanistan since the 6th century, and imported to Europe through Venice.

There were a few alternatives, such as smalt and azurite, but none was stable when suspended in oils, and none had strong tinting strength or covering power. For centuries, artists managed with these imperfect pigments using ultramarine as they, or their patrons, could afford. But when synthetic blues started to be made, a whole new world of potential opened up.

Prussian Blue

HTB1CtRbFVXXXXb_XpXXq6xXFXXX2       prussian

In about 1706, the German chemist and the color maker Heinrich Diesbach was sharing the Berlin laboratory of an alchemist, Johann Konrad Dippel. Dippel was preparing so-called “animal oil” – an alchemical concoction supposed to cure all ailments – by distilling blood and adding potash, while Diesbach was working on more practical projects for various private clients. Up against a deadline for one such client, Diesbach rushed to manufacture a batch of Florentine lake, a red pigment derived from boiled cochineal insects, alum, iron sulfate, and potash. Lacking this last ingredient, he borrowed some from Dippel, unaware that it had been contaminated with hexacyanoferrate from Dippel’s “animal oil” concoction. The next day, Diesbach returned to the lab to discover a deep blue precipitate, rather than the expected red material.

The two men quickly realized the commercial value of this new blue pigment. Dippel relocated to the Netherlands, where he began manufacturing his own Prussian Blue, while Diesbach remained in Berlin. Relying on word-of-mouth and sales through trusted contacts, Dippel and Diesbach realized high profits from the pigment, whose secret formula they guarded closely. In 1724, however, the English chemist John Woodward published a method for producing Prussian blue in the London Journal, ‘Philosophical Translation of the Royal Society’, opening up production in various European countries.

Cobalt Blue

cobalt 2 cobalt 1

As revolutionary as Prussian blue proved to be, it was a mere precursor to the explosion of available colors brought about by the Industrial Revolution. Indeed, the French government played an active role in catalyzing innovation at the dawn of the 19th century, as the country emerged from the Revolution with its economy in disarray. The newly appointed administrator of the Sevres Porcelain Manufactory, Alexandre Brongniart (1770-1847) oversaw chemist Louis Jacques Thenard (1777-1857) as he developed the next synthetic blue, a vivid cobalt blue pigment, inspired by the traditional cobalt oxide blue glazes seen on 18th century Sevres porcelain. In late 1803-1804 he published his successful experiments roasting cobalt arsenate and cobalt phosphate with alumina in a furnace. By 1807, production in France had begun. The pigment was, and still is relatively expensive. Variant hues of cobalt blue followed Thenard’s discovery. He had unlocked the complexities of cobalt mineralogy, including cobalt violet, green, and yellow. Cerulean blue, a cobalt stannate, was introduced in the 1860’s. In spite of its limited tinting strength and hiding power, landscape painters soon favored cerulean blue for skies.

French Ultramarine Blue

fumblueUltramarinepigment

The third major synthetic blue to emerge was the culmination of centuries of searching for a cheap, plentiful, high-quality replacement for the most valuable of all pigments: natural ultramarine. In 1824, the French government announced a competition among chemists to develop a true synthetic ultramarine. The prize was finally awarded in 1828 to Jean-Babtiste Guiment (1795-1871). Painters at last had an affordable, fully balanced palette of cool and warm colors spanning the full spectrum. This fact, combined with the innovation of ready-mixed oil colors in collapsible metal tubes, greatly facilitated the ability of painters to capture a range of observed natural effects en plein air (outdoors). Plein air painting culminated in Impressionism, which realized all the possibilities made available by the new spectrum of commercial paint colors. Like cobalt, the discovery of synthetic, or “French” ultramarine led to the development of variant hues, notable ultramarine violet, of the defining colors on the Impressionist palette.

(I want to thank the Norton Simon Museum for all of this information which is highlighted in their show, “A Revolution of the Palette: The First Synthetic Blues and Their Impact on French Artists”)