Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Subject of Art #14: The History of Colors, Chapter 5: The Organic Revolution!

Contrary to what you may associate with this subject, this final chapter on color is not about food, it's about the shift in modern times towards an organic way of thinking. Most of the pigments we've looked at in previous chapters were inorganic, being derived from metals and minerals. Unfortunately, mining for these inorganic pigments is a labor and/or cost intensive process, so artists, alchemists and scientists from all different time periods have always been searching for better alternatives.

The solution, however, did not come about until relatively recently, when advances in organic chemistry made it possible to create whatever colors we desired from their component parts. After that, the spectrum of color exploded into a whole new rainbow of bright, lightfast variations and completed the range of hues that we are familiar with today and that you can find in the paint aisles at BINDERS.

Organic pigments have always been known and used since humans began coloring things. In our previous explorations, we have touch upon a couple: Indigo, which is derived from plants, Tyrian Purple, which comes from an insect called the cochineal, and Indian Yellow, which is derived from the urine of cows who were fed a steady diet of mango leaves. There were many others in use for thousands of years as well, most prominently the root of the madder plant, which produces a bright crimson red color (which was the red used for centuries in the uniforms of British soldiers, the Redcoats!).

Without exception these pigments derived from plant and animal sources are quite unstable, being very likely to fade over short periods of time, so, while these natural organic pigments were often used by artists, if a suitable inorganic pigment became available that filled the same niche in the color wheel then the organic one would usually be dropped right away. Natural organic colors were most popular in the textile industry as ingredients for dyes, which makes more sense because one might expect clothing not to last for more than a few years of heavy use anyway, plus they could always be re-dyed at some point if desired (which is not a particularly easy thing do do with a painting!).

The aforementioned madder root became the first natural organic pigment to be replaced by a synthetic pigment, which we know today as Alizarin Crimson, in 1869. The chemical compound Anthracene was synthesized from coal-tar, a byproduct of the industrial production of coke, which was used as fuel for stoves and furnaces and for smelting iron. Once the chemical process for production of Alizarin Crimson was perfected, the madder root dye industry collapsed practically overnight, a sequence of events that would occur repeatedly as scientists discovered and developed synthetic versions of organic colors that were brighter, more durable and cost less to manufacture. The original Alizarin Crimson pigment is still in use 150 years later, although its lightfastness rating is low compared to the colors that would be produced in later centuries. The newer versions are usually a mixture of two or more synthetic organic pigments labelled as Alizarin Permanent or Alizarin Crimson Hue.

The phenomenal advancements that occurred in pigments during the 20th century were largely the result of industrial manufacturing and the requirements of objects in everyday life to be brightly colored, with the application of those pigments filtering their way into the artist's palette after they had been thoroughly tested out in the world. The first leap forward occurred in the 1930's with the development of Phthalocyanine Blue, which was originally created as a more stable cyan color for the printing industry. The intensity and durability of Phthalo Blue made it suitable for all sorts of applications and sparked off a rush of research into pigments synthesized from the carbon molecules found in petroleum. The chemical structure of these synthetic organic pigments is similar to plastic, so as the plastics industry advanced, so to did the science of color production. Phthalo Blue was quickly followed by Phthalo Green, while new organic compounds helped to fill out the color spectrum. The automobile industry had a lot to do with the development of a wide range of colors, since car paint needs to be extremely durable and people like having cars that are bright and shiny. Synthetics like Quinacridone Red and Arylamide Yellow (also called Hansa Yellow), helped to fill that need.

From the point of view of fine artists, the color range was expanded tremendously, and furthermore, the synthetic organics are very pure, "clean" colors, with very little gray or brown undertones. A certain amount of "muddying up" the colors was found to be necessary to achieve a more natural look, since the real world actually has a whole lot of gray and brown in it! As these new pigments were initially being assimilated into the art materials industry, many paint producers felt that the chemical names of the pigments sounded entirely too scientific and intimidating, so Phthalocyanine Blue became Winsor Blue for the Winsor and Newton company, and Naphthol Red became Grumbacher Red for the Grumbacher company. It's worth noting that, at least in the United States, paint manufacturers are required to list the pigments used for a particular color on the paint tube or jar, so you can look there to see exactly which pigments are being used to create it.

So this is where we stand today! We've gone a long way from digging up red and yellow dirt all the way to the modern organic chemist's laboratory and it's unlikely to end there. Who knows what the future may hold?

Monday, October 4, 2010

This Week @ BINDERS - October 4-10


SAVE THE DATE for Artfolio!  Mark your calendars for Fri. Nov. 5 through Sun. Nov. 7. Come try new products or the products you've always wanted to learn how to use and join us for product and technique showcases from the best in the business (at our Atlanta location).

Our Fall Sale continues through the end of this month, so you can still save even more than usual on sketchbooks, canvases, brushes and all the rest of the most basic things every artist needs.


Monday,  October 4:

Guided Open Studio with Kay Powell
10:30am-2pm, Every Monday | Beginner to Intermediate
Fee: $17/per session. Please pay the instructor. No registration necessary.

Contemporary Gold Leaf 1 with Shannon Forester
1-4pm, Mondays, 5 Sessions, Sept.13-Oct.11
Beginners to Intermediate (includes some materials) | Fee: $170

Tuesday, October 5:

Painting-Design and Technique with Charles Y. Walls
1-4pm, Tuesdays, 6 Sessions, Sept.14-Oct.19, | Open to all levels | Fee: $155

Bookmaking 1: Beginning Bookmaking with Anne Elser
1:30-4pm, Tuesdays, 6 sessions, Sept. 7-Oct. 12
Beginning-Intermediate | Fee: $155

Painting-Design and Technique with Charles Y. Walls
6-8:30pm, see details above

Bookmaking 1: Beginning Bookmaking with Anne Elser
6:30-8pm, see details above

Wednesday, October 6:

Acrylic Painting, Impressionist-Style with J.Z.Torre
1-4pm, Wednesdays, 6 Sessions, Sept.15-Oct.20
For Advanced Beginners to Intermediate | Fee: $175

Silk Dye Painting Basics with Hellenne Vermillion
5:30-8:30pm, Wednesdays, 6 Sessions, Sept. 1-Oct. 6
Beginner to Intermediate | Fee: $170

Calligraphy One: Italic with Anne Elser
6-8:30pm, Wednesdays, 6 sessions, Sept. 8-Oct.13
Beginner-Intermediate | Fee: $155

Thursday, October 7:

Mixed Media and Collage Class with Kay Powell
9:30am-12pm, Thursdays, 6 Sessions, Sept. 30-Nov. 11 (no class Nov. 4)
Beginner to Intermediate | Fee: $135
| Sign up now!

Watercolor: Mixing, Color Theory & Application with Susan Bradford
6-8:30pm, Thursdays, 6 Sessions, Sept. 2-Oct. 7
Beginner to Intermediate | Fee: $155

Friday, October 8:

Time Travelers with Barbara Bailey
4-5:30pm, Fridays, 6 Sessions, Sept. 10-Oct. 15
For children in Grades 3-5 | materials included | Fee: $125

Saturday, October 9:
Button Closure Workshop with Anne Elser
Sat. & Sun. Oct. 9-10, Fee: $155 | Sign up today!

Sunday, October 10:
Button Closure Workshop with Anne Elser
11:30am-6pm, Sat. & Sun. Oct. 9-10, Fee: $155 | Sign up today!

Please note: Classes on this schedule are in our Atlanta store unless otherwise indicated. For more information please email or call Eli Pelizza at 404.237.6331 ext. 203.

Check out the full list of our upcoming art classes and art workshops! Sign up for 5 classes, workshops or demos and receive 25% OFF THE SIXTH!

Brushstrokes 3rd Annual “Signature Art Show and Sale” at TULA Art Center Gallery O-2 75 Bennett St. Atlanta, GA 30309

Opening Event: “Cocktails and Canvas”
Thursday, October 7th 5 to 9pm
Gallery Hours: From 11am to 6pm
Friday 8th, Sat.9th & Sun.10th
A portion of sales will be donated to THE JAY SHAPIRO ARTS LEGACY FOUNDATION

Artwork by: Phyllis Adilman | Cheryl Alifeld | Christine Bray | Judy Clark | Suzanne Engel | Diane Hooker | Jill Krischer | Cindi Rawlins | Fran Scher | Shirley Seguin | Diane Shaftman | Marta L. Suarez | Lynn Tolleson | Amelia Wilson

Visit BINDERS website!