First look at a batch of Kremer pigments

Nothing gets my heart going like a new batch of pigments!  Here’s the list and initial thoughts.

Pigments (see right column of swatches):

  • 46280 Buff Titanium, (pw6:1) – an uninspiring color but a good mixer in tube paint.  As a pigment it turns out to be a big winner: a light pigment with naturally long rheology (response to handling), hard to find!  This rheology doesn’t survive in tubed paint; the stabilizers and fillers obliterate it, pointing out a big benefit to trying some dry pigments if you’re interested in the tactile nature of paint.  There are some yellow ochers and oxides with long handling, but this is much lighter. Mixed with barium sulfate (blanc fixe), it’s a thing of beauty if you like long paint, and want it in a light color for impasto effects.  [Touch dry in 1-2 days]
    (A nerdy side note: Long paint means that it pulls long off the brush, capable of making stringy, ropy or taffy effects. Most of Rembrandt’s impasto paint was long. Most handmade paint is longer than tube paint, which is almost all short, “buttery,” with brush strokes breaking off quickly.  That’s mostly because companies have to keep it shelf stable with fillers, but artists have come to think it signifies good paint. I find long paint much more poetic.  It’s very hard to get experience with it if you don’t make your own paint.)
  • 43300 Titanium Orange, (pbr24) – a lovely sunny orange color, often used as a Naples yellow substitute. Like Buff Titanium, it has long rheology, though it’s a bit of a knife edge between too oily and too stiff. Barium sulfate (blanc fixe) stabilizes it into very nice, long handling.  A highly useful, lovely color. [Touch dry in 3 days]
  • 40013 French Ochre, extra light (py43) – Blah, a disappointment. Lovely as a powder, appearing to be the lightest of the ochers with a subtle peach tint, but it’s a common and much darker orange- brown earth in oils, and has unpleasant corn-starchy handling.  Its color is a lot like the Earth Pigments amber ocher dunkel. I like almost all my yellow ochers better, and my Ocher Limone a lot better. Maybe it will grow on me. [Touch dry in 5-6 days]
  • 45100 Ultramarine Violet, medium (pv15) – gorgeous periwinkle color,  slightly more purple than Ultramarine blue. It would be easy to match with that and a magenta, but its rheology is interesting.  When used thick or loaded with pigment, it has corn-starch rheology, hardening against pressure, then relaxing when released. Very hard to work with that way, but spread thin, it acts like a sticky draggy couch for the next layer. It’s a little bluer than the Earth Pigments version, which is a very useful color that doesn’t share this rheology.  I’ll have to see how Kremer’s works out. It looks like a fast drier. [Touch dry in 4 days]
  • 42601 Ultramarine Red, violet pink (pr259) – also a lovely color, similar to manganese violet , but very weak and hard to load up on pigment. If you add more pigment, it gets unpleasantly stiff and has the same greasy corn-starch effect. Also sticky and draggy in thin layers.  Probably not too useful because of its weak tinting, and it’s much pricier than the ultramarine violets. Oh well. Also looks like a fast drier. [Touch dry in 1.5 days]

Additives, calcium carbonates:

  • 58162 Stone Chalk (natural calcium carbonate) – Tad Spurgeon recommends it in oils and my initial tests are very good. Made stiff, it is short and makes a plaster-like texture with nice marks with a palette knife. More oil makes it moderately long. Looks like a great additive.
  • 53100 Mica, Fine –  I’m interested in the pearlescent quality of evening skies, I may try it for that. The pearlescence seems subtle.
  • 58700 Blanc Fixe (pw21, barium sulfate) – in oil, this is a great additive, giving long, taffy-like rheology that can hold its shape. Dave Corcoran makes his lead white substitute  (Fake White) with it.  I tested it in Duo linseed oil; it is fantastic for ropy, charismatic brushwork. By itself, it seems to me to have a slight pearlescent sheen, but I haven’t heard anyone else mention that.  Love it, a big winner.
  • 58720 Calcite (natural calcium carbonate) – In oils it’s supposed to have a “mashed-potato” effect used by Velasquez, per Tad Spurgeon.  When I made it densely, what I saw is broken ragged edges that are kind of interesting. Some texture in the flat areas, though they also smooth easily. Seems less interesting when made with more oil, not as charismatic as stone chalk or blanc fixe. Adhesion seems poor. It pulls up off the canvas easily. I’m not sure this is my style, but if you’re interested in low texturing with interesting edges it might be worth exploring. By itself, it almost needs to be troweled on like a plaster, or moved with a finger.
  • 58920 Bone Ash – odd, slightly gray powder, does look like ash.  In oils, it’s supposed to relax mixes a bit. I tried it by itself, which isn’t really what Tad Spurgeon recommends. It was a little bit like the calcite, making low texture with broken edges and interesting roughness in the flat areas. With more oil it can be edged into lines, but I suspect with this much oil it will yellow badly. Another one that may be good for low texturing.  I find the results a bit more interesting than with calcite. It’s quite gritty though, so will probably suck up the next layer like crazy. I think Natural Pigments suggests using it in gesso.
  • 58689 Cristobalite Powder, approx. 8 µ – In oils, it creates a leveling, fluid glaze. I bought it in the hope that it would relax Genesis thick medium, which stiffens up badly the longer it sits, but it just made a dense mess, no help at all.  I have the Corcoran cristobalite medium (linseed oil based), but I haven’t tried to make an oil version myself yet. Cristobalite is a bit hazardous, so I’ll use his medium for now.  Kind of wish I hadn’t bought it, since I now have a big bag of the stuff, to be mixed up with a good respirator only. Blah.

Overall, some winners and losers, but you simply don’t know with pigments until you try them. There’s always a surprise, like buff titanium pulling long. Yay!

Kremer’s a great company, but they get an F on packaging. Most of the pigments came in bags tied so tightly that I had to use a dental pick to untangle the knot, sometimes piercing the bag in the process.  Even the hazardous cristobalite came that way and got punctured, so I had to re-bag it.  Earth Pigments packs in ziploc bags inside another bag — much better.