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by Deb Shaw

John Cogley and Kathrine Taylor of Daniel Smith, gave a fascinating presentation on the pigments and processing methods they use to create Daniel Smith paints.

John Cogley, President/CEO and Founder of Daniel Smith, talks over some paint tests with ASBA Conference attendees.

John Cogley, President/CEO and Founder of Daniel Smith, talks over some paint tests with ASBA Conference attendees.

How rocks become pigments

The multiple-step process begins with the Daniel Smith geologist adventuring out all over the world to search for mineral resources. Acquiring material is rife with problems: countries may decide they no longer want to export minerals; borders close; or mines run dry.

Sugilite, rhodonite, serpentine, ryanite, garnet and more—mountains of minerals arrive for processing. Many start out the size of a person’s torso. John explained that they fracture the rock, rather than grind it. His analogy was the difference between table sugar and powdered sugar: fracturing the rock until it is very fine keeps the crystalline structure intact, so it refracts light. Grinding would make the pigments dull and lifeless, like powdered sugar.

The challenge in creating quality pigments is overcoming the electric static of the individual particles, which makes them want to attract and clump together. This natural tendency to agglomerate creates pigment “lumps,” which leave hot and cold spots in the paint application. Multi-stage machine processing enables the pigments to lay in an orderly row, giving maximum refraction and maximum color.

The rocks are squeezed in the first machine until they fracture. Successive machines gently hammer them, and then roll them through balls, until they are the size of grains of rice. From there, they are run through heavy, hardened steel rollers. The hardened steel rollers have a hardness of 7, and some of the rocks have a hardness of 8 or 9; so the massive rollers need to be replaced annually (at least!). Each roller costs upwards of $50,000.00.

Once the pigment is at its final size, the mineral is run through various solutions. Specific gravity separates out the impurities, and the pure pigment is ready to be mixed with gum arabic and packaged.

Daniel Smith only uses medicinal grade gum arabic for binding, as it is consistent in quality.

Each batch of color is tested and carefully recorded at Daniel Smith. Photo by Deb Shaw.

Each batch of color is tested and carefully recorded at Daniel Smith. Photo by Deb Shaw.

It’s all about the size of the particles

Different minerals are reduced to different sizes, depending on the color desired. For example, French Ultramarine has larger pigment particles than Ultramarine. This means that French Ultramarine particles have more surface area and will reflect more “red” back to the viewer than Ultramarine.

The smoother the pigment and the purer the pigment, the less granulation will occur when applying the paint.

Garnets in their matrix, on top of Daniel Smith Garnet Genuine test page. Photo by Deb Shaw.

Garnets in their matrix, on top of Daniel Smith Garnet Genuine test page. Photo by Deb Shaw.

Granulation, or reticulation occurs when three or more pigments in a color behave differently when applied to the paper. If you look at a greatly enlarged side view of a sheet of paper, it’s apparent that it isn’t smooth and flat, but has hills and valleys. The pigments in a  granulating color will separate out and settle out at different points on the paper, based on the specific gravity or density. The lightest pigment (frequently synthetic pigments) will “float” and stay on the top of the hill. The next heaviest pigment might flow downhill a little further, settling in on the “side” of the hill. The very heaviest pigment will sink all the way to the valley and remain there. The purer the pigment and the smoother the paper, the less granulation there will be.

Synthetic colors, such as the Quinacrodones, are very pure, very smooth, and have exceptional lightfastness. They are used by (and dictated by) car and other industries. In the Quinacrodone family, different colors are created by moving the bonds around in the molecule.

Testing of pigment, showing the original pigment "rock" with the swatch test. Photo by Deb Shaw.

Testing of pigment, showing the original pigment “rock” with the swatch test. Photo by Deb Shaw.

Testing the paint

The Daniel Smith chemist carefully tests each batch of paint. An equal amount of pigment and distilled water (one part pigment to one part distilled water) is mixed and one full brush load is then painted on a sheet of cold pressed watercolor paper. The brush is then fully loaded once more, and stripes are painted on the lower portion of the paper to see each successive reduction in color strength as the paint is used up.

Gifts!

Daniel Smith generously handed out brochures showing their watercolor lines; a “Try It” sheet of 66 dots of watercolor; and nuggets of Turquoise from Arizona. Treasures!

Different pigment and mixing tests on cold pressed paper, and turquoise nuggets from Arizona. Photo by Deb Shaw.

Different pigment and mixing tests on cold pressed paper, and turquoise nuggets from Arizona. Photo by Deb Shaw.

TIPS

If your cap breaks

Call or email Daniel Smith. They’ll send you more, no charge.

If your tube of paint dries up

1) Unfold and open the crimped end; 2) add a little distilled water at a time until you get the desired consistency; 3) if desired, you may also add a little bit of gum arabic; 4) you may also add a tiny drop of glycerin.

If you have any questions/problems with that one tube of paint

There’s a batch number at the bottom. Include that number with your comments or questions and the folks at Daniel Smith will be able to look up that batch and help you out.

Use distilled water

Tap water is pure and safe to drink, but contains chemicals and minerals which may affect the paint and how it behaves. Use distilled water to ensure you have as much control as possible.

by Beth Stone, posted by Deb Shaw

The Techniques Showcase featured three artists covering a very broad range of approaches: Hillary Parker, Ann Swan, Kelly Leahy Radding.

Hillary Parker shared her artistic problem-solving approach to very large format botanical watercolors which most of us would surely consider impossible! First was a driftwood commission on 40 x 60 inch, 300 lb cold press paper. The second was a 9 foot long (!) watercolor of a stone wall with a foreground of woodland plant silhouettes worked in masking fluid. Can you imagine fitting such a massive work in your studio? Then consider how you would maneuver yourself and your paints around to work on it!

Ann Swan completed a kiwi botanical in front of our eyes as just a portion of her wonderful segment of the Techniques Showcase. The seemingly magical techniques Ann demonstrated included: colored pencil layering strategies; exploiting colors that resist adhesion of subsequent layers (for example, creating veination); use of alcohol-based solvent or baby oil (actually not oil, but dilute paraffin) to blend and spread color; and embossing to create fine hairs for kiwi and pussy willows.

I’m told Ann’s blog is one to watch. She posted photos of the Chihuly glass sculpture exhibit currently at the Denver Botanic Gardens. http://annswan.wordpress.com

Finally Kelly Leahy Radding demonstrated the technique she used to paint the beautiful water lily she entered in the show’s Small Works exhibit. The water lily is painted with gouache on a dramatic black background. Kelley demonstrated her painting process with gourds. She shared a tip regarding both zinc white and the warmer titanium white. Both dry with a slight blue cast which can be counteracted by mixing in just a touch of yellow.

As a special additional treat to complete the Showcase, John Cogley, founder, President and CEO of Daniel Smith, spoke on the manufacture of pigment. The process involves fracturing/cleaving the crystalline materials rather than grinding them. It was great to see the actual mineral samples John brought including a beautiful, huge, piece of Lapis. John graciously answered audience questions: explaining that his company bought out all the Quinacridone close-out stock, so we will always be able to buy a consistent Quinacridone Gold; that we shouldn’t be concerned if Gum Arabic binder oozes from a newly opened tube, it’s just excess that rose to the top; and we should use distilled water in our painting work rather than introduce tap water impurities. Deb Shaw went to John’s lecture, and will include pictures in the next posting.

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