Click the links for a look back at the main reds used by most artists, for a bit of history and a few tips.
“I love red so much, I almost want to paint everything red.”–Alexander Calder (from Color Research)
Did Lewis Carroll base the character, the Red Queen, of Through Looking Glass, on the War of the Roses or on Queen Victoria? There is much speculation but the monarch was apparently an amateur painter with a preference for alizarin crimson. However, many artists, like the former Queen, love this juicy color. Botanical artists once frequently used this deep rich red. But artist beware. With alizarin crimson, it pays to read the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Alizarin crimson was introduced in 1868 by German chemists, Graebe and Lieberman. Handprint.com states alizarin goes on strong and dark but dries to a much lighter maroon. Both Handprint.com and GurneyJourney.blogspot.com give alizarin crimson very poor ratings for light-fastness. James Gurney states alizarin will fade out of the painting considerably over time. PR83 is the chemical name of this rapidly fading alizarin crimson.
Gamblin paints has solved the fading problem of alizarin crimson by creating a lightfast substitute, slightly less intense, called Alizarin Permanent. And another choice for artists from Gamblin is the warmer but equally transparent Perylene Red. A little experimentation might make either of these reds a successful alternative.
Golden Paints has, also, come up with a solution to the lack of light-fastness in alizarin crimson by blending the quinacridone reds with Phthalo Blue-green shade to come up with Alizarin Crimson Hue. Golden gives Alizarin Crimson Hue a light-fastness rating of I, the best rating, another good substitute.
Brainpickings and Making a Mark are two blogs with a series of Queen Victoria’s watercolor sketches. The Independent has a story on the recent unveiling of the exhibit of Queen Victoria’s watercolors, along with other royals artwork, at Windsor Castle this year. She painted quite a few landscapes of the Scottish Highlands and a number of sketches of her children. Enjoy the Queen’s paintings but maybe not her color preferences!