Completed color layout for lightfastness test (no photos yet)

It will kind of be hard to talk about this without a photo, but the stuff’s just finished drying. 😛 I also kind of screwed it up by not planning it out enough, the other night, when I began.

I should mention that I didn’t follow a method I found online or in a book — tonight was just spent swatching out colors. I’ve planned on using black acrylic paint to block out light, using watercolor paper as a surface and laying this on top of the swatches.

It turns out, I have exactly 36 watercolors I would imagine using (or 35 plus Lamp Black, fine distinction). I still haven’t gotten to the gouache, or to the part of this which involves blocking out sunlight.

As yet, I’m undecided as to whether to even take the risk of exposing Prussian Blue to strong direct sunlight…I’ve read online that strong UV exposure can release cyanide gas. Plus, I’d never put a painting in the line of direct sunlight if I could manage it, and these days, having direct sunlight hitting a wall for extended periods of time is rare and only an issue on east walls, near a window, at sunset (a luxury afforded by having blinds instead of curtains, I suppose).

Also, I found that I have several orange-leaning yellows that look alike (although they’re of different formulations), and only one red-orange, which is…not the greatest-handling watercolor I’ve ever used (this is Grumbacher Finest Vermilion Deep — the only watercolor I tested to leave visible brush strokes tonight [though also the only Grumbacher Finest in my collection — the Grumbacher Academy student-grade paints are actually really nice, for the price, so I was interested in their artist-grade formulas]).

This could explain my difficulty in producing strong oranges; the “orange” pigments I have are closer to yellow-orange, with the exception of W&N Cotman Cadmium Orange Hue (the only Cotman I’m using, and that because it performs noticeably better than W&N Professional Winsor Orange).

I’m looking at some kind of Pyrrole Scarlet or Pyrrole Orange (PO73) to try and open up the warm, clear red-oranges, though I’m not sure this is necessary. (I actually have my eye on Winsor Orange Red Shade, which to me looks closer to red.) Basically, I’m after something that is a similar hue to Cadmium Red Light, but without the cadmium. I’ve vented about cadmium salts before; the most I’ll say here is that they’re unacceptably toxic to me, right now.

I have the Vermilion Deep (which is a convenience mixture), plus Winsor Red (another Pyrrole, PR254), but those are the only neutral or warm reds that I have: everything else leans violet (though that’s not saying much when two of those cool reds are Rose Madder [Mijello Mission Gold] and Alizarin Crimson [Winsor & Newton Professional], both of which are said to be fugitive).

I can, also, add a golden yellow or “orange” to red to make it more red-orange; my problem is that I’m not sure how lightfast any of those yellows are (which is a reason to do the lightfastness testing). And I only have one decent orange…which is a convenience mixture, because I haven’t wanted to use Cadmium Orange. (I’ve been reading that it’s best to use single-pigment paints when possible, to avoid “mud”, though honestly I haven’t run across that problem yet.)

Still, though, it would be nice to have one red-orange workhorse, and the flow of my Vermilion Deep is disappointing, compared to everything else I used, tonight. This is with the possible exception of Isoindolinone Yellow Deep (Holbein), which backflowed unexpectedly for me while drying (although this was the first time I used it — maybe a greater degree of skill is needed with Holbein’s formulations); and Winsor Orange (which I just really don’t like. When you see the photo, you’ll see one reason why).

Winsor Orange is actually made with an entirely different pigment than Winsor Orange Red Shade, by the way…

One thing I did really unexpectedly enjoy was seeing the performance of some of the cobalt colors I have. Yes, I know, cobalt’s toxic, too; but I’m not as concerned about it, having needed to work with it in the past.

In particular, shades of Viridian through Cobalt Turquoise Light…then also dealing with Cerulean (though I have Daniel Smith Cerulean Blue Chromium, which isn’t a standard Cerulean) and Cobalt Blue…I just want to DO something with those, you know?

The Ceruleans, Viridian, and Cobalt Turquoise and Cobalt Turquoise Light are all colors whose pigments clump together (this means they “granulate,” unless “flocculate” is the more accurate term, I’m not certain), and so they produce really interesting textures. There is also a common thread here in that all these colors are based on cobalt — which has a color range that really astonishes me: from yellow to green through blue and violet (at least so far as I’m currently aware).

There’s also the difficulty here that some cobalt colors (like my Cerulean Blue Chromium [PB36, “Cobalt Chromite Blue Green Spinel”]) will react poorly with certain other pigments (in this case, Winsor Yellow [PY154, Benzimidazolone Yellow])…I don’t know why. I’m not a chemist. But it leads to immediate strong granulation (visible even before laying down the paint) and poor adhesion to the paper.

I’m sure there’s some way of helping the paints stay down (like maybe mixing some type of glue [like nikawa, or animal glue] with the paint), but I did get rid of my test paper where this occurred because I was more concerned about keeping the pigment from finding its way into anyone’s system and making them sick, than keeping records. Cobalt is a heavy metal, so it’s not safe to get it everywhere. I just also read that like cadmium, it can’t be chelated out of one’s body; so it’s best to contain it, when possible.

And I almost didn’t get around to saying this, but almost immediately after I finished this chart, I wanted to redo it in a more organized fashion. Seriously, once I realized that I stuck one of my only orange paints right in a column of yellow paints…gah. Or, right after I came back to this today and realized I’d want to organize this by column instead of row, and could not “erase” the paints I’d already laid down…and then penciled in what went where as best I could and then realized I’d not foreseen everything, despite it.

It seems silly to make an art project out of categorizing and organizing colors, but I’m pretty sure that the tendency to want to do so is an effect of my job (for newcomers to the blog, I work in a library as support staff). And at this point, I’m resisting (for the moment) cutting these apart and re-ordering them, because it will make things more of a pain when I put the light-blocking strips on top.

I guess I’ll see how I feel about this, tomorrow…(well, technically, after some sleep).

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