Having posted some of the studies of the Salisbury Crags in Edinburgh I thought I’d post a few of the finished paintings. Most of them are sold but I still have these three which I am very fond of. They are painted in artist quality oil paint on oil primed board and framed with a double white Japanese wood.
Artist quality oil paints are quite different from student quality oils but some professional painters I have met are not aware that there is an artists quality oil. Winsor and Newtown (W&N) for instance makes a student quality oil called Winton-which is perfectly serviceable-which being made from synthetic pigments the colours have a uniform flatness and a deadness which is apparent to the more practised eye. Artists quality oil vary in transparency and flow from colour to colour being made from real pigments which also explains the difference in price between one colours and another.
For instance browns (Series 1 W&N) like Yellow Ochre or Burnt Sienna or Raw Umber are usually cheapest being made with earth pigments while blues such as Cobalt or Cerulean(Series 4 W&N) are more expensive. Currently a 37 ml tube of Winsor & Newtown Rose Dore(Series 6 W&N)often used for painting flesh colours, sells at €39.99 (RRP £27.99) though I have seen it on offer at €33.99. Expensive for a struggling artist.
For students who are experimenting or working on big surfaces the student quality is the only way to go but the artist quality is a must for serious professional painters. Certainly once I started using them I found it hard to work with the lower quality paints though I will admit to using some of the student quality browns and whites if I was stuck and needed larger quantities for under pinning as they are by dint of the pigment used in them as near as dammit to artists quality.
Artists used to grind their own colours-or have an apprentice to do it. I made my own colours once too. It’s simple yet time-consuming because the powdered pigment needs to be ground into oil (Poppy or cold pressed Linseed oil) with a glass muller by hand. I still have some of the colours I made, my Magenta being the most successful.
The history of pigments can be quite fascinating. Indian Yellow for instance was purportedly made from the urine of cows that were fed on mango leaves. Prussian Blue was invented by a Berlin paint maker trying to make a red. Carmine or Cochineal was made from the blood of bugs (and used to dye military uniforms to hide the colour of blood) while Ultramarine Blue came from grinding lapis lazuli which was mined in Afghanistan, some saying from only one particular mine. It was called Ultramarine because, for Europeans, it literally came across the sea.
Colour was not only used by painters but by cloth makers and colour was hugely important for the ruling classes as the more expensively dyed your clothes the more powerful you appeared. Black would have been used only by the sophisticated and wealthy in the 1400s for instance. So colour and its ancillaries played a part in world politics.
Alum, for instance, was a rare commodity which was used to set dye in clothes, was in the control of the Muslim world until 1458 when a mine was found near Rome giving the Vatican a European monopoly for decades which in turn would have affected relations with the Muslim world and changed the need for defending or establishing Christian outposts or colonies. To read more Victorias Finlay’s book Colour is a concise history of pigments and her travels across around the world to find the truth of them.
As for the paintings you can also find them in my Etsy shop here or contact me using the blogs contact form with any queries.