Sorry for not posting last week. : ) Life sometimes just is busy! To make up for it, here is an extra long and colorful post!
Last week I went to a presentation at the Daniel Smith art store (D.S.) It was a lecture about how they make their amazing paints and a tour of their manufacture facility. Which understandably, I wasn't allowed to photograph. It was utterly fascinating. They make ALL their paints in Seattle, WA., right next door to their downtown Seattle store (on 1st Ave, just south of the West Seattle bridge).
Did you know that the automobile industry is the highest consumer of pigments? And that what pigments are available to art paint manufacturers is driven by that industry? (Pun actually wasn't intended, I'm on my 3rd cup of black tea and it is not yet 10am-what can I say?) The advantage of this is that as you can imagine, the pigments for cars which are outside in UV light all the time is extremely permanent. Thus this also translates to artist paints which won't fade. All professional quality fine art paints (assume from now on that all the paint I refer to is professional quality) are given a lightfastness rating.
A rating of
"1" = paint will remain unchanged in color for 100+ years
"2" = paint will last for 100 years
"3" = paint will last for 20-50 years
"4" = paint is fugitive and will fade within 20 years
The only paints still manufactured that have a rating of "3" or "4", are based on customer demand. Alizarin Crimson is one. D.S. has made a Permanent Alizarin Crimson, but it isn't exactly the same color, and if you are just making small greeting cards-longevity doesn't matter as much. Opera, a brilliant hot pink, is also very popular, and very fugitive.
And interestingly enough, watercolor is the paint that is most sensitive. Both acrylic and oil paint pigments are given some protection from fading from the binder that is used in the paint.
Daniel Smith has a full time geologist who travels, collecting and buying minerals from mines around the world. The most mines are in South America and China. Often once another industry has finished the mine, it may still be rich in other mineral sources, and this is where many artist pigments come from accessing these already established mines, and obtaining secondary resources from them.
Amazonite stone and watercolor paint by Daniel Smith
The pigments which are available for paint are not only at the whim of the automobile industry, but also the live span of a mine. For example, D.S. makes a watercolor paint called Sleeping Beauty Tourquise, which is made from that rich blue turquoise stone from the Sleeping Beauty Mine in Arizona. The mine stopped mining turquoise in August 2012, and has switched to mining copper ore because the price of copper has risen so high. Before it closed, D.S. bought a huge reserve of stone so they can continue to make their paint for years to come. I had never thought about this-and how they must have a huge storage warehouse to contain all of it.
They also shared the fascinating information that you can't just simply crush the stone into powder and then mix it with binder and call it good. Because powder has no reflective surfaces, it doesn't refract any light-creating a very dull, flat paint. So they have to break down the rock into smaller and smaller pieces through a series of different mills. In the end an excellent paint has minute particles which still reflect light.
For some of the pigments, like Lapis Lazuli, they have to filter it through a suspension to separate out the different matrixes in the rock to get the pure blue color. It takes a lot lapis to make the pure blue paint.
After breaking down the rock, they then use huge industrial mixers to mix in the pigment with the binder. The pigment naturally wants to clump with itself, which also can create flat areas in a painted area, if the particulars are thoroughly mixed. The next step are several steel rollers that are so close together that the particles are forced to separate. When it is finished, each particle of pigment should be fully coated with binder. They test the paint at 3 separate stages by the chemist. Every tube of paint is stamped with a batch number. They keep a tube of paint from every batch they ever make! This floored me. This is so if a customer ever has a problem with a paint, D.S. can go pull out that exact batch!
Amethyst! Stone and Amethyst Genuine watercolor paint.
Green Apetite Stone and Green Apetite Genuine watercolor paint. You can see how the stone has different colors of brown and green, and when it becomes paint, the paint settles out into these beautiful dapples of brown and green.
Iridescent Ruby watercolor paint--Seriously... we are SO spoiled to be alive when there are so many beautiful paints available! Can you imagine mixing and grinding your paints by hand and filling tubes made from pig bladders? When you look at old master paintings you are not only observing the skills of a highly talented artist, but also a chemist!
The rest of my images are for those of you who came by to get your visual fix for the week. : )
Have a super, terrific week! See what fun colors you can find together today!