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by Deb Shaw

A New Blue

Blue pigment discovered at Professor Subramanian's lab at Oregon Stste University. Photo from Oregon State University.

Blue pigment discovered at Professor Subramanian’s lab at Oregon Stste University. Photo from Oregon State University.

Professor Mas Subramanian is a professor of materials science at Oregon State University, researching new materials that could be used in electronics. In 2009, one of his grad students, Andrew E. Smith took a mixture out of the furnace that had been heated to more than 2,000 Fahrenheit and found it had turned a brilliant, clear blue color. They had accidentally, serendipitously discovered a new blue pigment; the first new blue in more than 200 years. The last “new inorganic blue” to be manufactured was Cobalt Blue in the early 1800’s. Cobalt, however, was not lightfast and was toxic to boot.

Considered a “complex inorganic pigment,” the new blue is currently called YInMn blue, named for its chemical makeup of yttrium, indium and manganese oxides.

Subramanian, Smith and Oregon State University chemistry professor Arthur Sleight patented the YInMn material; Shepherd Color, an industrial pigment distributor is testing out the pigment’s application. Once the Environmental Protection Agency approves the color for commercial manufacturing, Shepherd is licensed to sell the pigment. So far, YInMn has proven to reflect heat more than Cobalt Blue and has proven to be remarkably stable; holding up against oil, water and sunlight better than other available blues. In addition to being light safe, none of the ingredients are toxic.

Once large manufacturers are using a pigment, the material trickles down to our art supplies. Keep your eyes open in the next few years for a brand new blue, which will most likely receive a sexier name for marketing purposes. And the team of “new blue” researchers are already working to create new colors by altering the mixture. They have created a purple by adding titanium and zinc and are expecting additional bright, vivid colors to follow.

National Public Radio (NPR) has an article online with interesting links about the new blue from July 16, 2016. Oregon State University has an in depth article about it as well.

Late Summer “Reads”: Links to Books and Online Articles and Podcasts about Color

Now that we’re hitting the dog days of summer, here are some interesting books, links and podcasts about color:

NPR has a series of free podcasts about color, called Color Decoded: Stories that Span the Spectrum. Read the articles, or listen or download them all from the link, or individually from any of the links below. Many of the following (in reverse order) are only a few minutes long, so queue them all up. Some of them have been featured on our BAGSC News blog previously. They’re fun listening while painting or drawing:

Each of the individual articles have links to other resources and stories about color: TED Talks, podcasts and news articles. It’s easy to journey deep into online color discoveries.

For those who prefer spending the end of summer curled up with a good book, here are a very few great reads about colors:

  • A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire, Amy Butler Greenfield, ISBN-10: 0060522763
  • A Red Like No Other: How Cochineal Colored the World, Carmella Padilla and Barbara Anderson, ISBN-10: 0847846431
  • Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World, Simon Garfield, ISBN-10: 0393323137
  • Color: A Natural History of the Palette, Victoria Finlay, ISBN-10: 0812971426
  • The Brilliant History of Color in Art, Victoria Finlay, ISBN-10: 1606064290
  • Rarest Blue: The Remarkable Story of an Ancient Color Lost to History and Rediscovered, Baruch Sterman, ISBN-10: 0762782226

Have a favorite book about the history of a color? Let us know in the “Comments” section.


by Deb Shaw

Image Credit: Detail, Sebastian Lopez de Arteaga, St. Michael and the Bull, c. 1650. Denver Art Museum Collection: Collection of Frederick and Jan Mayer, 1994.27.

Image Credit: Detail, Sebastian Lopez de Arteaga, St. Michael and the Bull, c. 1650. Denver Art Museum Collection: Collection of Frederick and Jan Mayer, 1994.27.

BAGSC member Deborah Shaw will be teaching a two-part introductory workshop at Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California, Saturday, December 12 and Sunday, December 13, 2015, 11:30 am – 1:30 pm, “What’s Cool (and Warm) about Red: Color Mixing in Watercolor.”

Taught in conjunction with the exhibition “The Red that Colored the World,” this consecutive two-day workshop will use the flowers and fruits of the season as the basis for learning to mix a full spectrum of reds, both warm and cool. Delve into warm, fiery reds the first day, and cool, velvety reds the next. Explore transparency, undercolor painting and palette mixing. Suitable for beginners to advanced artists.

Location: John M. Lee Court in Bowers Museum
Price: Member $24 | General $30 | Students $20 with valid I.D.
Materials provided with a $15.00 materials fee payable to the instructor the day of class, and/or feel free to bring your own favorite materials.

Proceeds benefit Bowers Museum Education Programs. Tickets are non-refundable, may be purchased online or onsite. Questions? Contact Bowers by email or by calling 714.567.3677.

The exhibition, “The Red that Colored the World,” traces the history of cochineal and the seductive visual nature of red. It explores the quest for the perfect, vibrant red, which culminated in the Aztec marketplace of 16th-century Mexico, where Spanish explorers first encountered the American cochineal bug. More than 100 objects, which have all been tested to ensure they contain cochineal, come from all over the globe, and include textiles, sculpture, paintings, manuscripts, decorative arts, clothing and more. The exhibition was organized by the Museum of International Folk Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, and made possible by the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities and circulating through GuestCurator Traveling Exhibitions. Articles about the exhibition can be found on the Bowers Museum site, including coverage by the PBS NewsHour.

Bowers Museum is located at: 2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, California 92706, 714.567.3600.

Deborah Shaw has a degree in fine art from Pomona College, The Claremont Colleges, where she also studied botany and native California flora. Ms. Shaw is an active member of the American Society of Botanical Artists, the Botanical Artists Guild of Southern California, and the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators, and has taught art and botanical art at numerous venues, including The Getty, Virginia Robinson Gardens and Bowers Museum.

Deborah’s work has been displayed in juried and non-juried exhibitions, and is in private collections. Her work is in the permanent collection at the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation at Carnegie Mellon University and other institutions. She has received numerous awards for art, illustration, design, product design and advertising. Her preferred media include graphite, watercolor, colored pencil, scratchboard, Illustrator and Photoshop.

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