Friday, February 14, 2014

Pearly Whites

Posted by: Kate

Being one of those people who gets a bug up their ass and pursues a random project to the eighty percent mark before suddenly dropping it to pursue something else, spring cleaning is an especially interesting time of year for me.  It's when I uncover a half-finished, gender-neutral baby blanket made out of hypoallergenic wool; a perfectly organized tupperware box full of every size and shape of envelope that I could possibly ever need, unopened and forgotten; and fourteen separate notebooks and moleskines with the first ten pages filled out with really fascinating objectives: the properties and chemical structure of drying oils (riveting!), quotations about money (wow!), flowers and vegetables I want to plant (I even bore myself).  I also found... my old colour swatches!  Back from when I bought tubes of paint like they were five cent candies and then meticulously tabulated them in my precious, precious binder.

I'm going to throw it all out because I'm so over being a nerd and I've since blossomed into a sophisticated and carefree artiste who doesn't even read the pigment label anymore (okay, I do).  But before I do, take a look at these whites:

This advanced yellowing of something that should be white reminds me of something, but I can't quite put my dental plaque on it.
The key is as follows, listing brand, colour name, pigment, and binder:

A. Williamsburg, Titanium White, PW 6, linseed oil

B. Winsor & Newton, Titanium White, PW 6 and PW 4, safflower oil

C. Lefranc & Bourgeois, Titanium White, PW 6, soybean oil

D. Old Holland, Titanium White, PW 6, binder unknown because that's how Old Holland rolls

E. Winsor & Newton, Cremnitz White, PW 1, safflower oil

F. Gamblin, Flake White Replacement, PW 6 and PW 4, alkali refined linseed oil

G. Old Holland, Cremnitz White, PW 1, unknown

H. Rembrandt-Talens, Titanium White, unknown, unknown

All of these whites were tucked away in this binder in a box for the past several years, so the yellowing is quite exaggerated.  If these paints had been used in a painting and left on a wall where there was some light, it wouldn't be this bad.  But still.  It's worth thanking your lucky stars you didn't paint your masterpiece with Old Holland Cremnitz White.  I mean, you didn't, did you?

Word to the wise, if you're looking for a titanium white to use, look for something that says PW 6 only (no PW 4--that's zinc) and preferably a safflower or a soybean oil.  Good luck.


  1. Well by the looks at it, Im kinda happy I use rembrandt.

  2. You sound a lot like me. I have stuff I have been lugging around for nearly forty years! I was sure I would need it some day. Before the weather gets hot, I need to ransack my garage and clear out a truck load of boxes. You have inspired me and opened my eyes to whites!

    I also have color swatches made more years ago than this old memory can hold, but no whites other than in the mixtures. I made swatches similar to Richard Schmids about 35-37 years ago, when I had no clue to what I was doing trying to become a painter. I wonder what they look like now?

    Luckily, I have been using LeFranc Titanium white for a number of years now, before I was using Utrecht Titanium/Zinc and before that Permelba (yuck). Thankfully no one will want the Permelba paintings. When I switched to the Le Franc was for the sound scientific reason that it came in 200ml tubes for the same price as the Utrecht White and I really liked the way it felt on my brush.

    Thanks for the inspiration to unload a bunch of crapola.

    1. I found the Le Franc super stiff. Do you do anything in particular to make it more pliable? Special brushes? Medium?

    2. Kate, I have not noticed the LeFranc to be stiffer, but maybe it is. To me it feels (brushing) like the Utrecht White, but the Utrecht White, which used to be my favorite maybe, if memory serves, is a little stiffer than most paints. I do not use any medium with the exception of one technique that I use in a particular background I do for a specific subject. More on that if interested. I tone the canvas or panel with a mix of Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue using a large Mongoose brush (Rosemary's #12) , but no white. I control the value as I would with a transparent watercolor. When I actually start drawing I use a Silver Brush #6 bristle filbert. When painting I use mostly bristle filberts and flats and then finish with Rosemary's mongoose brushes of various sizes. I don't have any brushing problems as far as the handling, control or feel of the brush and paint. When doing people I start the same but move to Mongoose brushes and some sable rounds.Size of brush depends on the size and detail I am working. I love the effect of transparent and opaque and I like the LeFranc for it's handling properties. I use some Natural Pigment colors and find them much stiffer than the LeFranc even though I like their (NP) colors very much, particularly when doing figures and faces.

  3. I get similar bugs up my arse, too. Case in point, the color wheel I'm working on at the moment for my own edification that's keeping me from actually painting real stuff.

    Anyways…those swatches make me a little uncomfortable with the whites that are currently in my paint box. Luckily, most of my oil paintings up to this point (and probably for several months ahead) are just exercises in refamiliarizing myself with the medium.

    Definitely will take the type of oil into consideration in the future, though.

    ~ Megan

    1. I would like to compile a list of things that artists do to avoid real painting. Me? I obsessively remove the ring of dried paint around the neck of the tube.

    2. That's to funny! I also will clean the dried paint off of my paint tubes and the caps. I rationalize doing this as matching a better seal when closing the tube and not getting any chunks of dried paint when squeezing a fresh pile of paint out. I do this sitting in front of the painting and wanting to appear like I am working when I am really wasting time. I also spend time thinking up nifty gadgets to build. For instance a studio easel that moved up and down and side to side with a finger touch, yet is stable and solid and a completely different principal than the Hughes Easel. I built a prototype which worked for myself and then quite a few more for other artists, mostly Cowboy Artists of America members. I stopped because I realized I was not painting and had procrastinated enough. Most other gadgets only waste a day or two at most. The easel was a bit over the top and I let my insanity take control.


      (If you've ever seen the movie Amelie and remember that part where Amelie talks about how her mother loves nothing more than to empty out her purse and then put stuff back into it…that's ME. Nailed it.)

  4. I'm so happy my paint is Rembrandt. I think I will do this with the new Natural Pigment, lead white. that I have incorporated.

  5. You folks are awesome. Made my day. Thank you.