Mix and Match

Even from the earliest days our Cinnabar Green Light was a simple blend of two pigments: Ultramarine Blue (PB 29) and Permanent Yellow Light (PY 3). Straightforward. Uncomplicated. About as easy a mix as you will ever find. But while we can control most of the variables in a recipe, a change in the pigment from our suppliers is rarely one of them.  Tweak either of the underlying colors a little warmer this way, a little cooler that, and all of a sudden you might find that no possible ratio of the two pigments at your disposal will ever create a perfect match.

Recently we had to confront just this situation when a cooler version of PY 3, which had been used in Cinnabar Green Light, was completely discontinued and no alternative supplier could be found. In seeking a way forward, we took a close look at the history of the color, including a tube from 2009, just before Williamsburg joined Golden Artist Colors, and another from 1998. Having these wet samples to use in color matching was critical, as color swatches, no matter how well preserved, can change over time. Despite the limitations of photos and computer monitors, you can hopefully see how the color already existed within a range, from a bluer, higher chroma position more than a decade ago to something that was slightly lighter, yellower and less saturated in more recent times. .

Williamsburg Cinnabar Green Light

While we found it impossible to match either of these poles with the new pigment, we felt we could easily achieve something in-between. Deciding to hold onto as much vibrancy as possible, we opted for the increased clarity of the older batch, but with just a touch more yellow to pull it slightly closer to its more recent incarnation. We believe the result (seen on the far right in the photo above) brings the best qualities of both versions together and hopefully represents a blend that can act as a new master standard for many more years to come.

Let us know what you think.

Sarah Sands

As always, make sure to subscribe, and if you have any questions, give us a call (800-293-9399 / 607-847-8843) or drop us an email techsupport@WilliamsburgOils.com


Ground Breaking Temperatures

It’s cold out there – or at least out here, in upstate NY.  And with the arrival of colder days comes concerns about lower temperatures and how these might affect paintings being stored or shipped in unheated conditions. For oils, the danger of dropping temperatures is focused mainly on the increased brittleness of paint films and the grounds they rest on. In a recent study by conservation scientists¹ on the impact of cold temperatures on various grounds, issues were raised about all the usual suspects.  But while it was long known that acrylic gessoes grew stiffer and more brittle in low temperatures, the degree this affected traditional oil and more modern alkyd-based grounds might come as a surprise.  At 68F/20C a traditional lead ground could only flex 1.6% before cracking, but by 50F/10C that was cut in half to .8%. As you fall even further down. to 32F/0C, that percentage was halved yet again, to just .4%, while alkyd-based grounds fared just slightly better, hovering around 1% or less. Just how little give and take does that represent? A 25” x 30” painting would only need to be keyed out or stretched a scant 1/16” to suffer a 1% strain in the corners and a .5% strain in the center of the canvas. So, for this example at least, an increased risk for cracking would exist even at the relatively mild temperature of 50F/10C. And of course, in all these cases, the older the oil painting becomes, the less flexible it will be.

So, what is a painter to do? Obviously the best solution is to keep your work in as moderate an environment as possible, and to avoid stressing or stretching any painting that might be colder than the typical, warmer room temperatures you find in a gallery or museum. If you can, try not to ship paintings during colder months, but if that becomes necessary, look for ways to dampen and minimize any flexing the canvas might undergo. And certainly by painting on panel, or mounting a canvas to panel, one greatly lessens these concerns altogether. Lastly, this is a great excuse to relocate to warmer climates – assuming you have been looking for an excuse in the first place.

Feel free to leave a comment and make sure to subscribe to get our next entry. And for more tips or advice, or just to chat about any of your questions concerning our paints, give us a call (800-293-9399 / 607-847-8843) or drop us an email techsupport@WilliamsburgOils.com.

Sarah Sands

¹Young, Christina, and Eric Hagan. 2008. Cold Temperatures Effects on Modern Paint used for Priming Flexible Supports. In Preparation for Painting: The Artist’s Choice and Its Consequences, ed. Joyce H. Townsend, Tiarna Doherty, Gunnar Heydenreich, and Jacqueline Ridge, 172-179. London: Archetype

See also “Using Oils with Acrylics“, Just Paint 24, Golden Artist Colors


An Invitation to a Dialog

From the beginning Williamsburg was always known as a ‘painter’s paint.’ Partly it was because the founder of the company, Carl Plansky, was first and foremost a painter by both temperament and training. Everything he made was infused with a painter’s sense of touch and passion for color. The hours spent over a mill or mixer were in constant dialog with the hours spent in the studio. As any painter knows, at the end of the day the paint always has to ‘work’, the color has to be beautiful, the overall sense…..well, sensuous. And those criteria never came from cold concepts or rigid recipes, but from the lived experience of the paint being pushed and attended to in the studio. As the company grew, the dialog continued to expand far beyond Carl’s own paintings and practice to include the constant conversations and feedback painters provided when calling or visiting the factory and eventually to the thousands of emails and other contacts with artists that Williamsburg has had over the years.

The launching of this blog is another step in that ongoing tradition – an invitation to a dialog and discussion about the deep traditions and new discoveries that inform our craft and underlie our shared love for the materials of painting. Let us know what you think and what you are thinking about. And if you are ever in upstate New York, please visit our factory where the same mills and mixers that made Carl’s paints many decades ago are still in operation. We are always eager to hear your thoughts over a cup of coffee or, better yet, while pushing around some paint in our applications area. In the meantime, however, we want to invite you into this new space as well and to let those conversations begin to take shape.