The right, completed, is done in egg tempera. The left, still in progress, is done in Cuni encaustics. I’m very proud of the egg tempera painting; it has a complex expression and nicer color, but… next to the tempera, the encaustic seems to have an inner light, to have some magic of flesh rather than paint. This new encaustic doesn’t always give up its secrets easily. I struggled with it, but it has great potential. I think oil painters have a run for their claim that oil paint is the king for painting flesh.
This is the result of a late night internet session; kind of silly but maybe it will save someone some trouble. I have read that these are made by Da Vinci, so I thought they might be a good way to get some of the Da Vinci single pigment paints at a great price in large tubes. These have a lot of crazy names that give you no idea what the pigments are, and they don’t seem to have a color chart. You need to click on each pigment to find out the contents. I did find a catalog page, posted at the bottom, but it’s out of date. I quickly learned that this is a strange line of paints, and it doesn’t map to the Da Vinci paints consistently. It’s a huge line, full of many multi-pigment mixtures, including a lot of mixes with white.
Here are the single pigment paints, a good list but missing some of the more unusual ones in the Da Vinci line, not to mention some basics like burnt sienna. I am not including any so-called iridescent paints). Check the website; errors are possible.
I have been using my Createx pigment dispersions with the Cuni encaustic medium, and wanted to get some more colors, so I tried Guerra Paints in New York City. I ordered 1 oz. dispersion jars (the most expensive way to buy them, but I figured it made most sense until I see the colors). The order arrived in about 5 days, but there were two mistakes, colors I hadn’t ordered in place of ones I had. I called them the next day and they were very courteous and immediately shipped out the replacements, plus told me to keep the two jars, so I was pleased with their customer support. They charge both shipping and handling, which is kind of unusual these days, but each jar arrived with tape around the cap to prevent leakage and came with an extra ball-type squeeze cap, so I guess that’s the handling charge at work. It seemed reasonable overall.
This is my copy of one of R’s late portrait. [Someone pointed out to me that Google Images now shows large numbers of student copies when you search for an old master’s paintings, so I am not going to identify the artist except by initial. I don’t want my copy littering up the internet.]
As always, it’s highly educational to try this. My goal was to try some impasto in the Cuni encaustics, but I really failed at that. I’m not good at surface texture and fat paint, and I didn’t succeed in anything more than very low impasto. But I learned a lot.
Cuni answered a few more questions.
1. Lightfastness and pigment compatibility: I was concerned that quinacridone magenta is showing poor lightfastness on their American website, but he said this is an error.
I am surprised to hear that our PR122 is rated poor lightfastness in the tube, maybe it was an error with the label. I have been checking our current labels and our PR122 tubes are marked with the highest lightfastness rate. In our website it also shows up with a high rate. As you say, PR122 is usually a lightfast pigment and ours has been chosen by its high quality and resistance values.
Guerra Paint carries aqua dispersions, which are pigments in liquid form, ready to be mixed with water mediums like gum arabic, casein or egg. They have a really amazing line of colors. From their current color chart, here are the paints that have the highest lightfast ratings of 8, 8, 8.
I have been doing a series of paintings about speech; there is nothing like a mouth to test paint. This was painted pretty thinly, no impasto. Some areas are watercolor-like washes, but the mouth was mostly painted in multiple layers of somewhat thicker paint. Based on this, I have no doubt this paint can be used for realist painting comparable to the incredible Fayum portraits. I think it could be used for almost hyper-realistic work if desired.
The paint is almost instantly layerable with fairly dry paint, since it sets up very quickly. I didn’t do any curing with heat while painting. As fast as it sets, I found this unnecessary, so I was able to paint uninterrupted from start to finish. What a joy after waiting days with indirect painting in oils! The most intense color areas were done with multiple thin glazes in both wet and drybrush techniques. It is easy to correct areas; the chalky look of corrections with titanium white in the mix can be quickly adjusted with glazes.
These paints are very new on the U.S. market. They are produced by the Cuní family in Spain (now part of a bigger company, accorging to Custom Encaustics). According to Jorge Cuní on an AMIEN thread:
“…You can also paint with water-soluble encaustic of beeswax and potassium soap. Chemical studies of ancient paint samples indicate that this type of cold encaustic was used by Greek and Roman artists to execute paintings on wall, wood, canvas and ceramic. Pliny the Elder reports that the word encaustic designated both the cold wax technique used by artists and the hot wax technique used to paint ships (Pliny, Natural History 35, 41). With wax-and-soap encaustic you can mix the colors together and make layers like in acrylic or oil. Unlike wax saponified with an alkali, water-soluble encaustic film is totally stable. Fusing the paint after its application is not necessary, although a final heating below the melting point of the paint improves its water resistance.
What an interesting paint! I ordered these from Custom Encaustics here in Tucson; they seem to have just arrived in the U.S.
According to Cuni, “The content of our tubes is basically an emulsion of beeswax and potassium soap with pigments.” I have found a few recipes for wax soap paint (see theModot cookbook and D. B. Clemons) based on borax or ammonium carbonate as the alkali, but Cuni and others say these are brittle, with some handling problems. I’ll do another post on what I’ve found out about potassium soaps, etc.
I purchased the medium, the retarder, and a few tubes of paint, figuring that I would mostly mix my own pigments into the medium. Color choice in the Cuni line is somewhat limited now; many of my favorite pigments are missing. (The line will expand soon, I understand.) I have never used encaustics, so my take on these is from an oil and water media painter’s viewpoint. Some initial observations:
I am becoming aware of the problems of very slow-drying oil paints, so it’s worth knowing what oil binder is used in commercial brands. I have found reasonably good info on these paints. Whites excluded.
Gamblin – linseed, some safflower
Richeson Shiva – linseed except lightest colors
Maimeri Puro – poppy, safflower
M. Graham – walnut
Blue Ridge – linseed and walnut combo
Sennelier – safflower
Lefranc and Bourgeois – safflower
Mussini – Damar/linseed
Daniel Smith – linseed?
Rembrandt – as of 2008, linseed (but mine sure dry slowly)
Williamsburg – was linseed, some safflower introduced by Golden
Blockx – poppy except for mars, earths and blacks in linseed
Winsor Newton – mostly linseed
M. Harding – linseed
Vasari – linseed