Colorful Fridays–The Yellows

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“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:

Healthy Love Inspiring Yellow

Misunderstood Mispronounced Exploding Yellow

Red-less Monkey Yellow

Disgustingly Beautiful Yellow

Sunset Yellow

  • Cadmium Yellow is covered under the reds
  • If I have missed a yellow you would like to see, let me know
  • Everyone probably has a favorite yellow.  Mine are Naples and Indian Yellow

Colorful Fridays–Healthy, Love Inspiring Yellow

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“I really just want to be warm yellow light that pours over everyone I love.” Conor Oberst (from Brainyquote)

For generations the cadmiums had a stranglehold on the yellows in paintings.  Brighter and cleaner than Indian Yellow and without the green undertones of Gamboge and Aureolin, the cadmiums ruled the world of sunny yellows.  As costs of the cadmiums increased and word began to leak out of its carcinogenic properties, artists and paint makers frantically searched for an alternative.  Thus Hansa Yellow was born in a chemistry lab of relatively nontoxic chemical compounds. Developed in Germany, Hansa Yellow became available as an artist’s pigment in 1915.

Screen shot 2014-02-21 at 9.06.48 AMHansa Yellow is sometimes known as Arylamide Yellow or Monoazo Yellow. lists Hansa Yellow as the primary yellow for the basic three colors of the primary triad of the color wheel.  Gamblin says the Hansa family of yellows, “retain their intensity in tints and make beautiful glazes.” The American Society of Botanical Artists (ASBA) adds Hansa Yellow to the list of recommended paints for botanical artists for its wonderful transparency in watercolor.  The Museum of Fine Arts describes the Hansa Yellows as having, “good lightfastness and weather resistance but are susceptible to bleeding in some media and discoloration when heated.”

Hansa Yellow is so loved by painters that one artist was moved to write a love letter to this sunny yellow.  “Without you, my palette feels naked, empty and completely lost,” writes the author of  All artists may not be driven to writing love letters but many find the bright cheerful sunny Hansa Yellows irreplaceable as a palette staple.  The Hansa Yellows easily replace the evil cadmiums in the hearts of artists as long as they don’t cook them or leave them out in the rain too long.  And Hansas won’t expose anyone to carcinogenics.  So keep your Hansa saturated paintings out of heat and weather and they will keep the sun shining in your art.

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The painting above was made with Dr. Ph Martin’s Hansa Yellow.

Colorful Fridays–Berry, Berry Grass Green

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“Green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises.”

Pedro Calderon de la Barca  (from the

The perfect green for the leaves of the trees and the grass of the fields has a name that misleads.  Sap green was not made from the sap of trees or leaves or grass.   Berry green would have been a more appropriate name.  More precisely, sap green was made from buckthorn berries and stored in animal bladders.  Why animal bladders?  Beats me!  For some reason, bladders seemed better than jars to these early makers of sap green, perhaps because at the time this green was known as verde de vescica.  (Since my knowledge of animal bladders and what they have to do with paint, is limited, we will move on.)  It is an old paint color and early painters of illuminated manuscripts considered it part of the four primary colors needed in their work.  Red, yellow, blue and green were the primary colors of these artists.  Sap green was the primary green.  Unfortunately, the early sap greens were not lightfast as they are now.

Screen shot 2013-11-14 at 8.32.44 PMIf you would like to make your own sap green, the blog, Medieval Whimsies, takes us through the process of identifying the different varieties of buckthorn plants growing in North America, Europe and Asia today.  The writer is planning to make a personal supply of sap green and is gathering berries from different buckthorn shrubs to make a determination as to which shrub’s berries make the best sap greens.  So far step one is all that is posted and we will have to stay tuned to find out what the outcome was.  In the meantime, you’re on your own with the berries but the blog has nice pictures (shown right) of the plant and the various berries to help you identify each.  There is no mention of where to find the animal bladders.  I guess you are on your own with that, too! describes Winslow Homer’s use of Hooker’s green and sap green in his wonderful landscapes.  Homer’s The Blue Boat is featured on the website and is a great example of the lovely green grass that can be made with mixtures of sap green. claims to have found the perfect “luscious” mix of sap green using Schmincke sap green and Schmincke translucent orange for richgrass and moss.  Gamblin states sap green warms nicely when mixed with Hansa Yellow and cools nicely with any of the blues.

Daniel Smith’s website describes techniques for using sap green’s staining ability in paintings.  Removing sap green from a painting, whether in oil or watercolor, leaves a green stain behind that creates many different wonderful effects.  This staining ability is the main reason sap green is favored in the layers needed for glazes in botanical painting.  Daniel Smith’s description goes on to point out which color mixes will make the best deep shadowy forest greens or the more olive tones of mossy greens.

Sap green is a must have in all paint boxes, especially for landscape painters.  Whether or not you make your own pigment, sap green is essential for wonderful lovely green mixes.  The adventurous may try gathering and boiling down the berries to see what happens.  Since buckthorn is wild and grows profusely, it should be easy to find.  Animal bladders may not be so easy.  Good luck finding them.

Artist Martine L’Etoile, at demonstrates a beautiful step-by-step use of sap green in a landscape painting here.

Winsor-Newton demonstrates sap green washes in the following You Tube video.