There’s an excellent review on the internet of this pigment set in watercolor, but I couldn’t find one about oil paints.
I bought this set to get a chance to try some of the historical pigments like smalt and azurite, and to explore the differences among ultramarine blue variants and cobalt variants without buying a lot of pigments. I got the set on one of Kremer’s fairly rare sales (around Memorial Day and Thanksgiving); get on their mailing list to be notified when that happens. All in all, it was worth it, and it includes a few awesome expensive bonus pigments. By the way, if you are starting out with pigments, I’d recommend the 25th anniversary set. It’s a great selection of modern and earth pigments across the color wheel.
My quick summary is:
- Don’t sweat which of these ultramarine blues you buy — the differences are too subtle to matter much in practice. There are certainly slight differences, but I suspect they will be hard to see in most painting situations.
- The cobalts and ceruleans on the other hand show distinct differences in color and value that might justify buying several, and also have interesting rheology that is almost never seen in tubes.
- Hand-mixed cobalt violets are stunning — much better than tubed versions I have, which seem full of fillers. Cobalt violets are pretty expensive, but not as expensive as buying high quality tubes, which I have seen at $90.
- For color alone, I think the historical pigments like azurite, lapis lazuli, and smalt have been replaced for good reasons in oil painting. (Watercolor is a different story.) Their muted masstone and dullness in tints and mixes hardly justify their expense when good alternatives are available. On the other hand, mineral colors can be quite interesting for unique optics in glazing and surfaces. My view of these pigments is changing since I have tried making paint all the way from rock and earth. I reluctantly admit that we may be losing something by not grinding rocks ourselves for certain effects, but I don’t think very many artists want to go there. I think these Kremer pigments may only get you part of the way to the real interest of hand-ground pigments, though. I’m thinking if I buy more, I will look for coarsely ground pigment, and use a mortar and pestle to do the rest.
I did 20 or so paintings with Genesis heat set paints several years ago. They offer some compelling advantages. These really are not gimmicks!
- Paint stays open indefinitely until heat set.
- Indirect techniques and multiple glazes are possible without long waiting periods.
- Mediums dry without yellowing, at least in the years I have had my paintings. As with acrylics, mediums can be used for translucent effects that would have oil painters wallowing in problems with linseed oil yellowing.
- Brushes can be set aside for days without cleaning. You can really just walk away from your painting and come back to it days later. The biggest problem is that paint mixes last so long that they can gather dust.
- Genesis can match oil paint for color density, especially compared to paints like Golden Open and Atelier Interactive, which are often portrayed as oil substitutes.
But, Genesis also has distressing disadvantages:
- A very narrow range of mediums with very limited behavior, and no way to overcome the ever-present thixotropy without weakening the paint.
- Tendency to thicken dramatically on the palette and canvas over time (that’s thixotropy).
- A small range of surfaces that the paint is reliably compatible with, unless you gesso it yourself. Many acrylic-pre-primed surfaces are too absorbent and suck the plasticizer out of the paint. I believe the plasticizer can even soften some acrylic gessos, which can border on disastrous. I find Fredrix gesso (and Fredrix pre-primed canvas) the best for a smooth, slick feel, and Golden gesso is useful for more brush drag. Amaco also recommends Pro Art gesso.
- Difficulties with heating arrangements, especially with large canvases. Only ovens are really sound, in my opinion; the heat gun is too hard to use long enough and evenly. I invested a fair amount of money in the Genesis oven, and can still only go to 24 x 24 inches. If you don’t want to buy that, make your own heat box, or use your kitchen oven (I sure wouldn’t do that), you will be limited to small sizes up to 12″ x 12″ that fit in a convection oven.
I eventually set them aside, but I recently pulled them out and did a few more paintings. The problems remain (even with new thick medium and a few new colors that I bought to see if they have changed anything), but I stumbled upon some intriguing possibilities of combining them with products from the polymer clay world.
I have been experimenting for awhile with oil/water emulsion mixes, a sort of shortcut tempera grassa created by mixing tempera paints or mediums with oil paints. Gottsegen’s Painter’s Handbook has some information about this technique. I tested a few tubes of Lukas, and found that they worked surprisingly better in these emulsions than any other brands I have (a few notes on that at the end), so I bought some more. There seem to be very few detailed reviews of them on the web, so here are my thoughts.
This is, first and foremost, heavily engineered to dry extremely quickly, in some colors as fast as an alkyd. Continue reading
My website was hacked last week, and to prevent problems I completely reinstalled my blog. While I’m not sure, it looks like the hack probably came through the blog. It will take some time to rebuild. I will work on getting content about water-soluble encaustics up first, since there has been some interest. At this time, I am going to turn all commenting off, so I don’t have to install plugins that may lead to future problems. I apologize for this and regret it, since there have been some very interesting and useful comments recently. But I don’t have the desire or time to be a system manager. I want to paint, not watch updates like a hawk.
I have not been able to try this paint yet; Natural Pigments seems a bit behind on the promised roll-out and a request for a sample didn’t result in anything. There is a very good video available on YouTube by Candice Bohannan, though, that gives me some ideas of how it differs from Cuni water-soluble encaustics. Ceracolors are “a blend of waxes micro-emulsified in water,” not a mixture of beeswax and potassium soap like the Cuni paint. There are some things the video describes that appear very different from Cuni:
1. She says Ceracolors should be used on a rigid support, with absorbent gesso. Cuni claims it can be used on non-rigid supports including canvas and paper. So far, my experience says this is true. This seems like an advantage of the Cuni paints.
Some interesting ideas from Amir, who has done some work with Kremer mediums to make his own version of water soluble encaustics:
One is called “Translucent Wax Wall Paint Medium” (Kremer item #79228) which need to be diluted with distilled water if one intends to use it as a medium. I simply mix quality gouache paint with it and voila, water-soluble wax paint! In addition to beeswax, this emulsion contains linseed oil and casein as binders. After a painting session, I leave it overnight to fully dry then I set the paint with a heat gun the next morning. To use it as a binder to make my own paints, I mix it full strength (undiluted) with dry pigment to form a paste, then use distilled water to dilute this paint. (The reason why I keep mentioning “distilled water” is because hard water contains calcium which reacts with the alkalis in the medium which results in poor drying, etc.)
I received a sample set of paints using the new formulation, which I assume will be the only type available from now on. The paint is quite changed in the speed it sets up on the palette. For me, this has not turned out to be an advantage, since it makes palette management harder (and it was already kind of hard). The old formula would stay loose and rewettable overnight if I covered it with plastic wrap; the new formula has to be discarded more quickly. I am not as clear on how the paint has changed on the canvas. So far, I find it can still be lifted if re-wetted, even after a day or more. It certainly doesn’t behave like egg tempera, which sets hard very quickly and can be overpainted without lifting. Cuni says the new formula cures more quickly. I’m not sure if he means this change is noticeable in a range of time that really affects painting technique. I don’t have enough experience with it.
Lousy photo but I don’t have a good setup. In most cases, to highlight texture, I dropped wet paint on the texture once set, let it dry, then rubbed off the high points or painted them. With the exception of the middle right, the technique was to put a blob of paint down, then work it with a small clay sculpting tool until it began to set up.
The top row is mixes with Cuni medium and oil mediums, left to right: Williamsburg impasto medium, Natural Pigments impasto medium, Natural pigments Velasquez medium. I would give the edge to the two NP mediums, but they dry much more slowly, the Velasquez very slowly, that is not dry yet in 3 weeks. Probably not worth it when similar textures can be achieved other ways.
Two water soluble encaustics. Still working on the one on the left. More unified than previously, I hope, but I may have lost some of that interesting translucent quality. It is on watercolor board gessoed with encaustic gesso. I am having a lot more lifting problems on this one, so I’m not sold on the gesso so far. The right one is from a modeling session with Edin.
I am seeing some info about Ceracolors on the Natural Pigments site. This will be the second water-soluble encaustic paint available, the first being Cuni water-soluble encaustics, which I have been using. Ceracolors are described as a blend of waxes microemulsified in water, while Cuni is a mixture of beeswax and potassium soap. Other wording in the description of Ceracolors is almost identical to Cuni’s. There are specialized wax products for the cosmetic industry called emulsifying waxes, and hydrophilic waxes like cera bellina. Is this something like those?
It’s not available until June. Update: I contacted Natural Pigments. George Hanlon says it does not include potassium soap, just waxes, and will have somewhat different handling from Cuni. It can be mixed with other water media, but they don’t recommend mixing with oils.