The very-expensive, highly-toxic Vermilion red was replaced by the lesser expensive and less toxic Cadmium reds in artist’s palettes in the nineteenth century. Less toxic and less expensive was less than perfect so the search for the perfect red continued. Eventually, chemists came up with a fairly good substitution for Vermilion and Cadmium. Naphthol Red was born in a chemistry lab as a derivative of coal tar.
Just Paint on the Golden Paints website describes Naphthol Red as, “bright, opaque, fire engine red.” Gamblin’s website says Naphthol Red is a, “modern organic, warm red that closely matches Cadmium Red Medium,” though Naphthol Red “makes more intense tints” and is “more transparent.” Gamblin also reports Naphthol Red is “excellent for high key painting.” AArbor Colorants recommends Naphthol Red for printing inks and gives it an excellent light fastness rating. Some sources report Naphthol Red as fading in tints. Confirmation of this claim was not confirmable so tests may be in order.
Naphthol Red does not have the toxic properties of Vermilion and the Cadmiums and is considerably less expensive. The Material Safety Data Sheets give Naphthol Red a very low toxicity rating. The MSDS says Naphthol Red may cause some mild skin irritation, nausea if consumed, or some respiratory irritation if inhaled. Contact in large amounts could be more toxic.
If in need of a bright intense fire engine red, Naphthol Red may fit the bill, especially if you don’t want to shell out a lot of money. Just don’t have the Naphthol Red for dinner or add it to body lotion. It’s probably not a good idea to set any dried pigment around a fan either. Otherwise, Naphthol red can be a palette staple as a strong red without fear of damage to health or wallet.
My preferred red for botanical painting is Naphthol Red or its sister: Windsor Red. Thinning is required to achieve the transparency of botanical painting. No other red comes close to the intensity of Naphthol Red or Windsor Red so use with extra water and enjoy the intensity!
In the ongoing process of making a better rose, at least in painting one, new tools are always being sought, tried and incorporated into the technique. Art supply stores are the garden where new tools are harvested. On one particular scouting expedition, I was overjoyed at what I thought would be a wonderful new tool for streamlining the under-drawing portion of the painting.
My favorite method of painting flowers is based on one of the techniques outlined in Botanical Illustration Course with The Eden Project. In this technique, a complete pencil drawing is made that can be used as part of the layers of paint-washes speeding up the time to the finished piece. I have experimented with different pencils and mark making applications and have come to a place where I am happy with that process. But I still find it necessary to use a white eraser until I get the shading where I want it. (More on erasers in another post.) Occasionally, I’ll use the eraser to clean up the edges, as well.
While perusing the feast of erasers at the art supply store, my eyes hit on a battery operated power eraser complete with white eraser inserts. My heart jumped with excitement imagining faster and more productive painting. I couldn’t wait to get home to try it out. As soon as I got home, I pulled out watercolor paper and started what would be a red rose. The eraser worked so well, I used it more. I became almost careless with the drawing because I could clean it up so much more quickly. And then my newfound excitement began to shrink.
The first thing I noticed was the paint was pooling up and not spreading smoothly. As it dried, I started to see splotching. As the painting progressed, it became evident that the eraser had erased large portions of the “tooth” of the paper. This particular tool would not be as useful as I thought. It would be great in drawings not intended for painting, but would not be helpful in making an under-painting drawing. It’s back to the drawing board to start over.
Moral to this story: there is just no substitution for good drawing.
Follow the link here for more on The Eden Project.
Fall appears to be taking its sweet time this year. The colors have been changing for about four weeks or so, as far as I can tell. I picked up the first red leaf I saw weeks ago and brought it home to press in my favorite leaf presser book, Art Through The Ages.As the weeks have progressed, more and more leaves have found their way into the pages of the book. Fall leaves are like seashells. You can’t pick up just one. There is always another beauty to be brought home. I keep going until the book won’t close well anymore. Then I have to switch to pine cones, acorns and other fall treasures. My intent with all of these treasures is to make paintings and drawings of them. Some of them, I actually get the time to make the painting!
The leaf painting above is one of my favorites but each leaf presented a different issue to be worked through. The yellow maple leaves had green still bleeding through the veins and bits of brown in odd places. The red maple leaves were slightly testy in achieving the right shade of red-orange. But the Bradford pear leaves were undoubtedly the most challenging. I prefer using a complimentary color for shading in most cases, but the pear leaves were just not getting there with green shadows on the deep, dark red. Finally, in desperation, I resorted to phthalo Blue. Bingo! It was the right color for shading the strong red of Bradford pear leaves. Usually, I stay away from any of the phthalos except in extreme circumstances because their strong staining color is so unforgiving. Once it’s on, it’s on to stay! If the phthalo ruined the pear leaves then the whole painting was gone because they were the last leaves. This felt like that extreme moment! I took a deep breath and dove in. Risks can be so fun when they work! When they don’t, not so much. But then you can’t have the fun without the risk!
As fall fades into winter, the last of the leaves will be dropping. I took the camera out for one last sweep of the fall colors since the art history book is now overstuffed and there’s no more shelf space for pinecones. Soon it will be time for the winterberries and glossy holly leaves. I think I’ll take another risk or two with fall treasures before starting on winter.
Happy treasure hunting for “risky” fall paintings!
This beautiful article was a humbling thing to read but I was also quite proud of the things it highlights. The Art to Heart Project was a three year project from start to finish and quite involved. It took another year to see it published. Even though it was time consuming and arduous, I would do it again in a heartbeat, no pun intended. Tears still spring up when I think about what a difference art made to patients and staff. I think the effects on the staff were more meaningful to me than the results of the patient part, perhaps because I was one of them too.
Teaching is a total delight to me. I love every minute of it and I love to see the progress people make with their art. If it was up to me, I’d mandate all students be required to take art classes. Something beautiful happens when art is created. Whether or not anybody thinks they have any talent, everybody can create something when given direction and the right tools. Some will discover they had more talent than they thought and will continue on to develop that talent. Others will go on as better creative thinkers and better creative problem solvers for having the experience of art in some form. Most people don’t know that many of our greatest inventors and scientists are frequently artists too. Albert Einstein kept sketchbooks of his ideas. And he is by no means, the only one to do so.
Many artists take classes to stay fresh and to stimulate new directions. These artists are so much fun to have in classes. They stimulate me to try new things and new directions. And they keep me on my toes trying to keep up with them. Watkins College of Art has so much to offer
besides lots of fun classes. I get to meet so many artists from different walks of life and different artistic styles and mediums.
As I head into new directions in my life, I turn to new directions in my art. Birds are becoming an obsession. All summer long it was the beautiful and elegant waterbirds. With the approach of Fall, my bird obsession has turned to feeder birds, chickadees, cardinals, titmice and lately, nuthatches. Maybe a woodpecker or two, will turn into a painting. Painting is the ultimate goal but following the birds around with my camera is gaining in obsessive territory. As with all artists, I’ll see where the new direction leads.