Thursday, May 6, 2010

What's on your palette??

Since Thursday is usually my watermedia day I decided to do a abstract bird painting (Thorn Bird) with a watercolor triad including both opaque and transparent pigments, here I used Quin Gold, Cad Red Light, and a dark blue I rarely use, Indathrene (or sometimes Indathrone) Blue (PB 60).

According to Handprint (my go to site for paint pigment info) Indathrone is:  "Usually an inessential pigment, PB60 mixes muted violets or maroons with quinacridone carmine, and is an effective portrait or figure shadow color in tints, but its darks and shadows can appear grayish or obtrusive."

Uh oh, with info like that I feel my left brain kicking in...Seriously, though, I feel very strongly that artists should know what pigments they are painting with. I love the sound of painting with "Moonglow" too and yes I confess I own a tube of this lovely Daniel Smith paint, but what the heck is it? (BTW, it's a melange of  Ultramarine, Viridian, and Alizarin Crimson.)
Can you imagine cooking with mystery spices? It just doesn't make sense. Most tube paints (oil, acrylic, and oil) are labeled with a pigment code starting with "P"--The Pigment Codes used are fairly straight forward:

    * PB = Pigment Blue
    * PBk = Pigment Black
    * PBr = Pigment Brown
    * PG = Pigment Green
    * PO = Pigment Orange
    * PR = Pigment Red
    * PV = Pigment Violet
    * PW = Pigment White
    * PY = Pigment Yellow

A number then follows to indicate the exact pigment. For example some common blues are:  PB29 Ultramarine Blue, PB15 Pthalocyanine, PB28 Cobalt, PB35 Cerulean, etc. If your paint tube label says, for example, Cobalt Blue Hue but has no PB28 it is likely a manufactured substitute mixture from other pigments including often white.

Why does all this matter? Well for one thing, I feel that the more I know my pigments and their tendencies the more confident painter I am in any media--especially when I am mixing colors. For another, like many artists I own at least a dozen brands of paint, so for me the Pigment Code helps me work across brands more easily.

And, as many of you may have noticed, paint color names (what is Dragon's Blood or Renaissance Green??) can vary from brand to brand so I always check the pigment code  to be sure I'm getting what I'm looking (and paying) for.

Yes, the same pigments can vary from manufacturer but at least we know we are "in the ballpark" with PB29 no matter what the tempting paint name (French Ultramarine just sounds better doesn't it?).  For more info regarding pigments check out the Handprint website as I mentioned above or Michael Wilcox's excellence reference books on pigments.   

Whew--that was more than a brief side note, but as you can tell I'm passionate about color and in the end, when we paint, color is pigment. For more info about my classes or open studio Monday workshop please email me. Have a colorful week!

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