18 and Beautiful….

They take their place, lined up against the wall. Three rows of six each, like contestants trying to show off their best side. They are beautiful, seductive. Each of the colors beckon you a bit with promises of an undiscovered nook, a locked secret, a long lost friend you swap stories with over cappuccinos.

18 New Colors from Williamsburg Handmade Oil Colors

Only painters might understand how one can linger for hours looking and imagining into a color, moving it around on the palette, unfolding it, discovering how it acts, what it likes….how it smudges and glides, or how its grainy texture pulls you deeper into the Provencal landscape, with its vineyards and the endless string of French masters who staked their vision there.

From the moment people started coming by our booth at the College Art Association, where they were learning and seeing them for the first time, to the many emails and phone calls in response to the most recent Just Paint article, the 18 new colors we are introducing has been met with incredible excitement, enthusiasm, anticipation, and seemingly one burning and overriding question: when? When can we see them, buy them, order them, try them….

So here’s the scoop…..all of them will start shipping from here around May 14, but we would strongly encourage you to share your interest in these colors with your local art store, as retail orders for the new colors are being accepted now. As in today. Or tomorrow. Not sure who to contact in your area, or need more information? You can always call us at 800-293-9399 / 607-847-8843 and ask for our Customer Service folks, who will help connect you with a supplier, or one of us in tech support,  who can answer any questions you might have.

If you are just now learning about the colors, definitely take a moment and read Amy McKinnon’s excellent article describing them. And if any of you haven’t done so already, sign up for our free Just Paint newsletter so you can keep up with our latest discoveries and research and what might be around the corner. It’s painless and easy – just fill out this form.

And now here is our question to you: what else would you love to see us make, find, discover, or revive? What do you keep dreaming to reach for, but then find it just isn’t there – that quirky gap you yearn to fill in your palette, that medium you hope will rock your world, that rare pigment you suspect is out there for the finding? Many of the new colors that are coming out this Spring started from just those types of conversations and comments, from those burning desires for something beautiful and something new. So we would always love to hear whatever you are thinking.

Get that idea or thought out of your head and give us a call (800-293-9399 / 607-847-8843) or send an email techsupport@WilliamsburgOils.com

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Sarah Sands


When is Long too Long a Time? On Van Dyke Brown and the Art of Drying

It never dries. Or at least it can seem that way, if you ever worked with genuine Van Dyke Brown, a bituminous earth designated as Natural Brown 8 by the Color Index. Week after week can go by, and even the lightest touch of a finger on the thinnest of films can come away with a wet smudge of a deep dark blackish brown. It’s enough to push many a painter’s patience to the brink, and is a quality that has been bound to this pigment for as long as it has found a place on the artists’ palette, stretching back to the 17th century.

When confronted with this problem, a paintmaker only has a few options at their disposal. Certainly you can leave the paint as it is, although in many ways you are simply pushing the problem downstream and forcing artists to wrestle with the disparity of a paint that might take months to dry in a thicker application. Another possibility would be to abandon the pigment all together; to convert it to a mix of synthetic or natural earths blended with black. But to do so is to turn one’s back on a unique material that has threaded itself through so much of art history, and appeared in such a wide range of paintings forming the backdrop of our craft. Or you might try ramping up the addition of metallic driers in the hopes of coaxing the color into line. However, you soon find there is a limit to the improvements you can achieve before equally increasing the risk of cracking and surface defects. Not an option we would entertain.

In the end we went in another direction altogether, using a solution that has a long history of its own going back to at least Rembrandt’s day: namely, to leverage the powerful drying action that certain pigments are known to have – in particular the umbers. Start with a pure Van Dyke Brown and add 10% Raw Umber, and the initial film that never dried for weeks will now be locked down in a couple of days. Along the way, however, the masstone and tint are clearly impacted and its not clear if the gains are worth it. Slowly reduce that blend to a mere 2%, and the film will dry in a fairly reasonable 6-10 days with barely a perceptible change in color or handling. Reduce it even further to 1%, and the drying time starts to lengthen out again and even a paper-thin film can easily take a couple of weeks or more to set-up. Which gets you right back on that edge of a judgement call – when is long too long a time?

So it’s a balancing act, and a good lesson along the way in just how reactive and powerful a catalyst some pigments can be. If you look at the dry time chart at the end of our recent article Weighing in on the Drying of Oils (http://www.justpaint.org/jp25/jp25article3.php) you can see that a thin film of our Van Dyke Brown should dry in 5-14 days depending on conditions – approximately the same rate as our Cadmium Reds. We feel that makes sense and is in keeping with the traditional way painters dealt with this problem in the past. But if you ever have a desire or need for a Van Dyke Brown that takes longer to dry, or contains no Raw Umber whatsoever, just let us know! We regularly make custom paints for those in search of unique colors or formulations.

For more information about this or anything else, give us a call (800-293-9399 / 607-847-8843) or drop us an email techsupport@WilliamsburgOils.com

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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