16 APRIL 2016

Artist's paint is made of pigment and binder. Sometimes thinners are added to shift the viscosity, sometimes fillers are added to decrease the price (as well as the integrity of the color.)

Paint, to me is about feel and smell as much as appearance. The grind of various pigments can differ regarding the final look, but also the feel as the brush connects to canvas. This site is dedicated to the pieces of paint.

Pigments are best described in terms of era. Go to my interactive timeline to disover stories of each pigment in relation to the evolution of each hue.

Renaissance 1300–1600

The palate was still limited to neutral earth colors so value was used heavily to create depth. Lapis was the highest cost, and prized among the pigments reserved only for painting the most holy of paintings, the most holy of characters, and often stolen, chipped from paintings and many counterfeits were on the market.

Industrial Revolution 1760–1840

The furnaces of the industrial revolution gave us colors made possible by fusing together metals at high heat: cadmium, cobalt, and ultramarine. The precursor was the accidental discovery of Prussian Blue.

The Impressionists 1840

To break away from value based techniques you must break away from the neutral core of colors. The mineral colors of the impressionists have much greater intensity and opacity. The impressionist paintings are as much a product of the industrial revolution as the steam engine and best defined as painting by hue. Black and white are rarely used as mixers in impressionist paintings. A shadow is created by a different hue lower on the brightness scale, not as a less saturated version of the same hue.

The Paint Tube 1841

The tin paint tube enabled plein air painting, another hallmark of Impressionism. Previously Beaux Art was the dominant art form and the subjects of still lives and landscapes were eschewed. Most landscapes were done in the studio from previously created sketches. The transference of oil paint was done in pig’s bladders tied with strings. The painter would cut a wet bladder into squares, wrap the square round moist paint and keep the bladder wet in the travels. To use the paint she would puncture the bladder with a pin, and then struggle to patch the hole when done with the painting. The tin tube enabled painters to spend days en situ working through paintings responding to the changes in light, keeping the look of the paintings vibrant and alive.

The dawn of Organic Chemistry, 1863

The ancient pigments are inorganic pigments. These are generally metallic oxides or synthetics. These mineral-earth type pigments are very simple and naturally occurring colored substances. The preparation process is also simple and consists of the steps of washing, drying, pulverizing and mix.

Organic Pigments are not usually found in nature. The majority of these pigments are chemically synthesized. They contain carbon and have low levels of toxicity, not providing any major environmental concern. Raw materials can include coal tar and petroleum distillates that are transformed into insoluble precipitates. Traditionally organic pigments are used as mass colorants.

In 1863, the creation of mauve, a coal tar colorant and the first synthetic organic colorant marked the origin of organic chemistry. This changed the world of colorants permanently, leading the way to azo, pythalocyanine, diazo and anthraquinone pigments. Reducing the price and raising the brightness potential of pigment.

WWII 1939–1945

Enormous advances in chemistry created organic synthesized pigments which were carbon based. The painting palate expands to the brightest of colors, for low cost, low toxicity, and high brightness.

Using natural pigment to date ancient pieces.

Dating through mineral pigment Frescos of red ochre have high iron content. The iron molecules act like compass needles pointing to magnetic north when dislodged. Magnetic North is in constant flux to 16 degrees a year in some cases. Frescos in the Vatican library, previously undated, have been dated to 1586, 1621, and 1660 using this mineral pigment.

Bibliography of references for this site.

Quality is the remaining question. “The natural paints aren’t perfect...and that’s the point,” says Aidan Hart, a New Zealand icon painter. Pouring some chemical pigment onto his palm “All these crystals are the same size, and they reflect the light too evenly. It makes the paint size less interesting (than if you used real ochre) from a stone.”(This from the book Colour: A Natural History of the Palette.)