Click the links for a look back at the main reds used by most artists, for a bit of history and a few tips.
“Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot, others transform a yellow spot into the sun.” Pablo Picasso
Colorful Fridays has reached a turning point where the majority of single colors have been covered. Colorful Fridays will begin color mixes after recapping the colors we have covered. Here are the yellows:
Colorful Fridays is off at the Double Decker Festival in Oxford, Mississippi. Here is a return to the first Colorful Friday. See you next Friday!
“Like emotions, colours are a reflection of life.” – Janice Glennaway (from Irene Osborne)
Most greens fall into the yellow spectrum following the colors of leaves, grass and other growing things of the natural world. These greens usually produce a nice mud color if mixed with red. The discovery of Viridian green changed that, creating a clear bluish green perfect for cooler uses and making a better glazing green. Mixed with alizarin crimson, viridian makes a beautiful grey, similar to Payne’s grey. Viridian next to red creates an energetic drama.
In the early nineteenth century, painters began looking for a less toxic green than the highly toxic emerald green. Painting Through the Ages states that viridian is Chromium oxide Dihydrate and was first patented in 1859 by Guignet of Paris. It quickly became a widely used color. So popular now it is even seen in the paint of cars…
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“But, luckily, he kept his wits and his purple crayon.” From Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955) (from Sensationalcolor.com)
If you want to know more about this deep rich clear purple, look to the artists. Only the artists have an appreciation for this purest purple. Dioxazine Purple is a mainstay for today’s flower and nature painting but is little known outside of artsy circles. Some users of printer’s ink may have a basic knowledge of Dioxazine Purple. But to find more about Dioxazine Purple, ask the artists who know.
Liz Powley of Inspired Gumnut has most of the background scoop on Dioxazine Purple. According to Powley, Dioxazine Purple is a derivative of coal tar and was discovered by two Carls, Graebe and Glaser, in 1872. Carbazole is the extracted chemical’s name used to create this luscious, velvety purple. (Maybe they should have called it Carl-bazole??). Most makers of artist’s paint have this purple listed as Dioxazine Purple except Daniel Smith. Daniel Smith’s lists Carbazole Violet as a purple with, “intense,vibrant color,” and it “can invent an iris petal with each stroke.”
Color Curriculum from the American Society of Botanical Artists (ASBA), features an article by Carolyn Payzant on the properties of Dioxazine Purple. Payzant describes Dioxazine Purple as, “one of the bluest shades of violet,”and says, “it mixes well with most any pigment.” Elizabeth Floyd, on her website, says Dioxazine Purple, “is a strong staining purple that can go a little crazy at times.” Floyd advises caution by starting with a small amount of paint on the brush as, “a little goes a long way.”
Fans of intense purples can be grateful to the Two Carls whose experimentation led to artistic abilities of reaching the highest of purple peaks. If the intensity and vibration of rich Dioxizine Purple becomes overwhelming, Zazzle.com offers a Dioxazine Purple mousepad with the admonishing words, “Keep Calm and Carry on.” If you find yourself overwhelmed by a wave of purple fury during an intense session of inventing iris petals, simply look down at your Dioxazine Purple mouse pad, take a deep breath, keep calm and carry on.
Here’s a demonstration of Dioxazine Purple by Liquitex:
“Mauve is just pink trying to be purple.” James McNeil Whistler
In the nineteenth century, the color mauve became all the rage in more than one country, so much so that the 1890’s were called The Mauve Decade, in a book by Thomas Beer. The rage started with two royal ladies, Queen Victoria of England and Empress Eugenie of France. Queen Victoria wore a dress in Mauve to her daughter’s wedding setting off one rage. Empress Eugenie declared Mauve was the color of her eyes setting off another rage. But Mauve’s beginning came about in a scientific experiment gone wrong.
A young chemist named William Henry Perkin in 1856 was experimenting with chemicals working to produce artificial quinine. He was unsuccessful at the quinine but his experiments produced a residue with an unexpected tint. That tint later became known as Perkin’s Mauve and was the first synthetic dye. Perkins left his chemistry studies to initiate the development of the synthetic dye industry. Perkins Mauve was derived from coal tar. Some sources give the origin of the name as from the French word for the mallow plant, malva. The mallow flowers are a color similar to what is now known as mauve.
Mauve rages come and go. Mauve goes into favor and out again. Sometimes mauve returns disguised as a “new” color. Pantone’s color of the year, Radiant Orchid, looks more than a bit like a dressed up version of Mauve. Another Mauve will eventually replace the current Radiant Orchid and Mauve will be recycled again. Mauve as an artist’s paint color lives mainly with botanical painters.
I can’t help thinking of Mauve as a popular color for dresses worn by my grandmother and her friends. Its difficult to get excited about a color that brings up pictures of old ladies in dusty pinkish purple dresses, white gloves and dainty hats, sipping tea and eating cucumber sandwiches. Unfair maybe, but shutting down that visual is just impossible.
“Red is the ultimate cure for sadness.” Bill Blass (from Brainyquote.com)
The very-expensive, highly-toxic Vermilion red was replaced by the lesser expensive and less toxic Cadmium reds in artist’s palettes in the nineteenth century. Less toxic and less expensive was less than perfect so the search for the perfect red continued. Eventually, chemists came up with a fairly good substitution for Vermilion and Cadmium. Naphthol Red was born in a chemistry lab as a derivative of coal tar.
Just Paint on the Golden Paints website describes Naphthol Red as, “bright, opaque, fire engine red.” Gamblin’s website says Naphthol Red is a, “modern organic, warm red that closely matches Cadmium Red Medium,” though Naphthol Red “makes more intense tints” and is “more transparent.” Gamblin also reports Naphthol Red is “excellent for high key painting.” AArbor Colorants recommends Naphthol Red for printing inks and gives it an excellent light fastness rating. Some sources report Naphthol Red as fading in tints. Confirmation of this claim was not confirmable so tests may be in order.
Naphthol Red does not have the toxic properties of Vermilion and the Cadmiums and is considerably less expensive. The Material Safety Data Sheets give Naphthol Red a very low toxicity rating. The MSDS says Naphthol Red may cause some mild skin irritation, nausea if consumed, or respiratory irritation if inhaled. Contact in large amounts could be more toxic.
If in need of a bright intense fire engine red, Naphthol Red may fit the bill, especially if you don’t want to shell out a lot of money. Just don’t have the Naphthol Red for dinner or add it to body lotion. It’s probably not a good idea to set any dried pigment around a fan either. Otherwise, Naphthol red can be a palette staple as a strong clear red without fear of damage to health or wallet.