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You get what you pay for…..

More expensive than gold!

Do you know what is in your paint, and are you getting what you pay for?

I often say “Paint is cheap”! It may not seem like it sometimes, but you really do get what you pay for. Back in the day, ultramarine blue was believed to be the most expensive colour, more pricey than even gold due to it being made from the semi-precious stone Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan. You can actually still buy it through Kremer Paints for about $890 USD for 1 kg.. Luckily we have a synthesized French Ultramarine to take its place. A lot has changed since oil painting first began. These days we are lucky to have so many more resources and science and history on our side.

Lapis Lazuli in its natural state

In the art stores you will notice professional level supplies have a variety of prices, even though the tubes are all the same volume. The reason being there are different amounts of pigments in the tube and those pigments varying in price. For example: You often see student grade paints like Winton, by Winsor and Newton (inventors of the commercial paint tube), paced the same across the board*. Well how do they do that? Balance it out with a loss on some and a gain on others. Maybe a bit? The exception to the rule is Cadmium pigments, which cost way more in general and they tend to be twice the cost. So to do it, they mainly reduce the amount of pigment in the tube and fill it with other additives and fillers.

My collection of paint in its natural state

Another way to judge the quality of paint is to feel the weight of the tube of paint. Higher quality paints and pigments are on average much heavier for the same amount of volume because the ration of pigment particles to vehicle is higher. Companies like Rublev, Micheal Harding and Williamsburg have much more high quality to pigment to vehicle ratio and little to none of the fillers, waxes, resins or binding agents that make inferior quality products. There is a caveat, new pigments with scientific chemical names tend to be lighter than their heavier mineral counterparts.

What does all this mean to you the buyer? Well you get what you pay for but buying more expensive many not be the simple solution. I still use a lot of student grade paints like Winton in my work. It just depends on its intended use. Maybe you want to extend the paint or maybe you need to fill large areas a background with textured impasto rather than bend it to have strong tinting strength. Maybe what you need is a stiffer paint in with binders and waxes already added. It would be better to buy a paint formulated for the job rather than experiment with adding all the fillers etc yourself to your pricey tube of paint.

So what is in there? They tend to list the vehicle, some colours from the same brand use different oils for their strengths. They list the Pigment, its lightfastness, maybe opacity and transparency but thats about it. They really don't have to list much at all. Their proprietary recipes are trade secrets similar to whats in that tube of toothpaste…they don’t have to list ingredients because you aren't supposed to ingest it. But with a little digging you can find out.

We have made it easy….There is so much more to this subject to discuss, we are offering a special night to learn more about it with Nick Rooney, Friday May 31st! We will learn all about how paint is made, whats in it, how to make our own, how to mull pigment and oil. Plus you will get to take some hand made paint home with you too! Empower yourself with knowledge it cant hurt. Space will be restricted, sign up here now if that interests you!

I digress a bit, back to getting what you pay for…..I often teach my hierarchy for painters, you’d know it if you have taken my classes. The foundation on which all of it sits is not the quality of paint or the mediums you use it is to invest in yourself in your time and your education!

Part of your perfecting and improving your craft is… "perfect practice". That means consistent, focused practice to achieve the goals you wish to achieve. So ask yourself, what are those?

The reason we have so much emphasis at the Atelier on learning the skills to achieve the illusion of reality and much of that is studying the figure, is we think that is one of the hardest and most rewarding subjects to go after. Training your eye, coordinating the hand and improving the mind can all be done alongside a great group of others pursuing similar goals. We have 3 drop in figure nights a week you can come study a live model.

PS: This Thursday we are hosting a special 4 hr. clothed figure event for Cinco de Mayo. 5 - 9pm. Come any time drop in, space is also limited as we only have so many daring horses and easels in our space. Link:

Thats it for now see you soon :D

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