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Variable Violet - Perspectives No. 436

Variable Violet

Perspectives No. 436

Portrait of Violette Heymann, 1910, Odilon Redon
Portrait of Violette Hemann          1910          Odilon Redon

   We artists live in an unprecedented time as far as art materials are concerned. Advances in chemistry and modern manufacturing processes driven by marketing, have produced a surfeit of choices in paints and every other category of art supplies. Many of these paints are true advances in permanence and safety. Many are not. Some artists are under the impression that the art materials business is somehow regulated by our government in such a way that there are strict standards for colors, for example. Except for toxicity, there are no laws which would prevent an unscrupulous manufacturer from offering an inferior pigment or even a completely different pigment as a well-known common color, say Cerulean Blue. For some companies, intense competition has put slick marketing ahead of the actual value of their products. False labeling is a big problem for artists. Common colors vary from one producer to the next, as does the amount of pigment, the presence of fillers, the light-fastness, texture and so on. It is a strictly “buyer beware” marketplace when it comes to artists’ colors. Although light-fastness is often listed on labels now, it is difficult to know for certain how much the colors we are going to use might darken or fade over time. We put a lot of hours into our work. Those kinds of paint problems would be disastrous. So how do we get reliable information to protect ourselves?

   We follow Michael Wilcox’s School of Colour newsletter, Colour and Technique, when it comes to getting the inside information. Wilcox tests everything he writes about and is very frank about his assessments of paint colors and their usefulness, if any. We like that. For instance, he tells his readers straight out if a new color is really new or can be easily mixed from two other common colors we probably already have, with superior results. He also reports whether the same exact pigment color is sold under several different names. If a new color is not worth buying for one or many good reasons, he says so. He includes color mixing charts, pigment charts, and an extensive readers’ Q and A section.

   His latest newsletter focuses on Violet, and as Mr. Wilcox remarks, it is one of the colors being sold by the “unscrupulous to the unwary”. He goes on to describe in detail his concerns with the colors Cobalt Violet, Mars Violet and Ultramarine Violet and then discusses useful violet mixes which can be made from reds and blues along with two color charts of warm-to-cool intermixes.  He ends with this delightful tongue-in-cheek comment:

   “If you are looking for a violet-red to later damage your work, you are rather spoilt for choice. A range of meaningless names are used to sell inferior pigments such as PR83:1 (Alizarin Crimson), and PR3 Toluidine. The ‘Madder Lakes’ are also well represented in the list of marketing names. The last time I looked, only one out of eleven ‘madder lake’ watercolors on the market would not fade rapidly”. (A reliable red-violet, Quinacridone Violet PV19, is often sold as Genuine Alizarin Crimson.)

   What matters is the pigment number on the tube, not necessarily the name the manufacturer has given the color. We encourage you to subscribe to his newsletter and to check your colors out thoroughly with his reference books. You’ll be glad you did. Website: https://michaelwilcoxschoolofcolour-usa.com




Copyright Hulsey Trusty Designs, L.L.C. (except where noted). All rights reserved.
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A Primer on Night Painting - Nocturnes

Nocturnes - A Primer on Night Painting

Filled with inspirational examples by the masters of nightime painting, this little book is sure to fire up your creative energies. Never tried painting at night? We show you how it's done with a step-by-step-oil demo and a tale of night painting in the wilds of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Primer on Night Painting - Nocturnes is a 7 x 7" PDF download with 40 pages of text and images. It includes a gallery of paintings by masters of the nocturne, information to inspire and encourage you in your plein air nocturne painting, an illustrated step-by-step demo and tips for working in pastel and oil. Also available in a softcover edition. Check out the tools and other products that we use in our own art and travels in The Artist's Road Store. We only offer things for sale that we enthusiastically believe in.

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About Us

Photograph of John Hulsey and Ann Trusty in Glacier National Park
We are artists, authors and teachers with over 40 years of experience in painting the world's beautiful places. We created The Artist's Road in order to share our knowledge and experiences with you, and create a community of like-minded individuals.  You can learn more about us and see our original paintings by clicking on the links below.
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