Humans have had a natural desire to leave their mark in the form of works of art since ancient times. This has driven the mission for new and better pigments with which to make paints. Pigments are chemical compounds with appealing or useful colour attributes and that do not dissolve in water. Paints are made up of tiny pigment particles, like the way Mississippi is an amalgamation of sand, clay, agricultural chemicals and effluents. All professional quality tube and pan watercolours are made with pigments.
Primitive men had earth pigments like yellow earth (Ochre), white chalk and red earth (Ochre) to paint on the cave walls. The coloured clays that were found as soft deposits within the earth are Ochres. They made black pigments from the soot of burning animal facts. Most likely the best known early artistic paintings can be seen at Lascaux in France.
There has been a more substantial change in the composition of pigments; from the earliest earth pigments used by ancient men for designing the walls of caves to synthetic pigments made in recent times. The creation of new pigments went with the improvements of fine art history's most prominent developments - from the Renaissance to Impressionism - as artisans tried different things with hues at no other time found ever of. Pigments also tell some great stories. Here are a few stories that are startling:
How Indian yellow pigment was made is still a mystery that no one has deciphered. There are many stories as to how this pigment was made. The famous story that also named it ‘Indian Yellow’ was that it was extracted from the urine of cows in India. In the north-eastern state – Bihar, cows were fed mango leaves. Due to this, the pigment got its brightness. Later, they collected the urine and processed it to knead balls of the Indian yellow pigment. But, due to the reasons related to the holiness of the cows in India, soon this process was banned. Later, it was replaced by synthetic alternatives and is called euxanthin or euxanthine, which is a xanthonoid. Chemically it is a magnesium euxanthate, the magnesium salt of euxanthic acid.
Until 1828, only the natural variant of Ultramarine Blue was available which was known to be even more expensive than gold in those days. It was extracted from a stone named - Lapis Lazuli, which meant Bluestone. The best quality blue stones were found in Afghanistan, and it was grounded by hand, and all the dirt was removed. This was very time consuming and laborious process. Mary’s Iconic blue comes from lapis lazuli, choosing the colour for its hefty price tag, and not for its religious symbolism. When the Industrial Revolution started, chemistry science was on the rise, and an alternative was sought for the Ultramarine blue. However, in recent times too this semi-precious gem stone is used in Daniel Smith watercolour paints to give wonderful granulating effects that some artists have called “magical”. Its synthetic version is made out of chemicals like Sodium Calcium Aluminum Silicate Sulfate.
Purple is another phantom colour. History has it that it was discovered when Hercules, the Greek hero’s dog ate molluscs and while he returned to his master, his mouth was purple coloured. This is how Tyrian purple was made – cream was extracted out of the special gland in the murex mollusc which at that point turns red and afterwards purple when presented to the sun. Like ultramarine, it was startlingly costly, with 12,000 molluscs collected to make 1.4 grams of the substance. Senators used to dye their togas purple to flaunt their wealth. It all changed in 1856 when a chemist derived the pigment mauve out of the far cheaper coal tar, and Tyrian purple effectively met its end. Monet had a soft corner for this new hue, and many other painters accused him of having ‘Violettmania’. In recent times, purple pigments is prepared from the ink of the shellfish Murex trunculis and Murex brandaris and synthesized from coal tar popularly known as Imperial Purple or Royal Purple.
In medieval Europe, red was gotten from female scale bugs that lived on the Kermis oak tree in the Mediterranean. Called kermes red, it was hard to get, so red wasn't utilised often as a colour. When the Spanish colonised the new world, they found that the locals used an alternate beetle to pulverise into red pigment: the cochineal, which lives on nopal desert flora. It's these bugs that give the red colour, utilised as a part of most Latin American materials, and the Aztecs would effectively develop and gather the bugs– individuals even paid the Aztec rulers tribute in cochineal. In any case, it wasn't only beautiful to look at. After overcoming Latin America, cochineal brought the Spanish Empire tremendous wealth– it was the second most gainful item for the realm after silver. Currently, it is known as Carmine and is made of carminic acid, kermes acid and laccainic acid.
Well, it is scary because of the way it was produced. Individuals used to fanatically attempt to reproduce the excellent, rich dark coloured that old masters like Rembrandt and Titian utilised as a part of their canvases. This prompted a wide range of experiments with colours, one of which made it into the history books: crushing mummies to produce colour. It's hard to believe, but it's true, mummy brown is made of embalmed people. It was taking something magical from a world and adding it to an artwork! These days artists use Sicklerite, a synthetic version of this pigment made out of Lithium Manganese Iron Phosphate.
In spite of present-day innovation, the craftsman's palette remains a blend of the tones utilised by cavemen, natural pigments used as a part of the medieval times, and current natural mixes. One such watercolour line is the Daniel Smith’s . It has unique pigments that creates unique effects because they are made from minerals, often semi precious minerals, that have been ground into pigments, mixed with gum arabic (the binder) and milled into PrimaTek Watercolors. King’s Framing and Art Gallery, brings you these colours at your doorstep. It also has Jacquard and Demco Dry pigments with various pure and lightfast pigments of the highest quality available from all corners of the world. Make your own paint with perfect colour and consistency that you want it to be! And guess what? We are offering up to 25% off on all products. Offer is valid till 31st July 2018! Grab your favourite art supplies before offer ends.