Sunday, November 17, 2013

Colormen, Communication & Color Continuity

Last week I posted an open letter to two colormen Winsor and Newton and Da Vinci Paints. My point in approaching them was rumors and information about discontinued colors and the reduction  or elimination of  some toxic paints such as Cadmiums.

Dan Vinci Paint were quick to communicate back that they have not and are not planning the reduction or elimination of any of their colors. Furthermore they have stayed in touch furnishing more information, and I have invited them to guest post in this blog to keep the communication going with artists.

Winsor & Newton were disappointingly less communicative. They posted a small statement on my Facebook post and on my blog to say that they indeed were no longer manufacturing Cadmiums in 37ml tubes but were continuing to produce them in 15ml and 5ml tubes, attributing that to concern about environmental issues. I am not sure how that makes sense since someone determined to use 30ml of cadmium colors will now have to by 2-6 tubes to do so. This would clearly create more waste. I hope they can explain that at some point. When I asked if they had informed artists of that change, they said that they were thinking of informing the artists through their site or newsletter. I checked their last newsletter which was issues late this week,  and nothing was mentioned there.


Meanwhile I have been asked to engage Daniel Smith about their Quinacridone colors as well as their Cadmiums. There was mention in a popular art podcast that they will be phasing out these colors from their extensive line. I will post this blog to their Facebook and Twitter accounts for hope of some feedback.

The point of these blog posts is not to get the backs up of any colormen, but to compel them to start direct and honest communication with artists about the media that they produce and that we rely on for our work. In this age of instant communication there is no excuse for not having the consideration of informing consumers of what is happening and what is coming down the road. The colormen who step up and meet this challenge are the ones who will earn respect and trust from artists – their consumers. Those who remain cryptic and / or refuse to share information will lose the trust they have built and erode confidence.

While this blog is being offered as a platform for this communication – I invite all comments and guest posts from colormen – it doesn't have to be the platform. I am not looking for traffic for my blog. They can and should share this information broadly through their sites/social media/newsletters. We all deserve to know what colors are being phased out, why and when. This should be just as visible as when they announce new colors that they would like us to try and add to our palettes.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Garden Gate–Watercolor Plein Air

I was out at Scotsdale Farm last weekend. The weather was supposed to cooperate and get better as the morning advanced, but no such luck. It was cold and windy and I froze to the bones.

I managed to do this one before my fingers fell off and my paints froze. It actually started as a larger 14”x10” painting but when I got home and spent some time getting familiar with it, I decided that a lot of the peripheral extras had to go. It is now am 8”x6” but I like the composition much better this way.

Garden Gate, Watercolor 8”x6”

It is amazing how when you are not comfortable, you tend to make so many mistakes. I always tell fellow artists to reduce and eliminate anything that is not material to a painting. Yet this weekend, I ended up adding so much that was not essential. Normally I would do three to four pencil sketches before I commit paint to paper.

I sometime do much more actually just testing different compositions and designs. Many of those would be duds and that is the whole point. You have to go through the duds to get to the good stuff. The bad compositions are somehow the ones that come first and as you do more and more rough sketches you get closer and closer to the essence of the painting. I always find that the more I sketch, the better the final result is.

Needless to say as cold as it was this weekend, I tried to cut corners, but after cropping and restating, I think this one is a small gem.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hey Colormen, I have a bone to pick with you!

NOTE: After posting this entry, Da Vinci Paints contacted me to let me know that they are not discontinuing any of their colors. I appreciate the update from DVP and apologies for accepting information without checking and double checking. In my defense, I had received the information from several sources, but in the case of DVP at least, this is clearly not correct information. I am delighted that the colors I have grown to love are still being produced and hopefully sold in my area. Perhaps DVP can correct the misconception and misinformation that is being spread at the art stores. 

NOTE II: Another update from Da Vinci Paints:
The message we posted on your facebook wasn’t visible so I’m sending you a copy below.
We contacted our suppliers of Cadmium and Quinacridone pigments and confirmed that the pigments are not being discontinued. Below is a note received today from our UK vendor:
“Dear Marcello,
(Company name) have been producing cadmium pigments in the UK for over 60 years and are the world’s largest manufacturer of cadmium pigments. We are a major supplier to artist colour producers all over the world.
Cadmium pigments remain our core business, we are committed to them and continue to invest in the future of these unique pigments. “
Currys Artists’ Materials stocks Da Vinci’s best-selling Watercolors and Fluid Acrylics. We also contacted them today to inquire about custom ordering Da Vinci Colors that are not stocked. They said to simply order via your local store. The manager’s name at your local Currys store is Thelia. Alternatively, you can visit their new Queen store where they offer our complete watercolor line.
Thanks again for your support.


Not only am I relieved to get this news, but I am impressed by the follow up at DVP. Meanwhile Winsor and Newton had the following to say:

Winsor & Newton The passion and dedication of the artists who use our products is what has driven us since 1832 to provide them with the finest quality materials. We know that cadmiums are vital to their colour palette, which is why we will continue to manufacture them and they will continue to feature in all our artist grade colour ranges. However, we have a duty to ensure we take an environmentally responsible approach to manufacturing, and to support this we are reducing cadmiums in selected sizes and ranges.

For example, in the Artists' Water Colour range, they are available in 5ml & 14ml but have been discontinued in the 37ml size. We hope this demonstrates our commitment to supplying artists around the world with unique colour ranges and materials of the highest standard.

I will keep you posted.

In case you have not heard, we are heading fast towards a new dark ages in our artist colors. And I have yet to hear from the colormen who we depend on so badly for our art on how they are planning to change that.
First earlier this year I heard through my trusted art store that the cadmiums will be phased out. That about kills my palette. I rely heavily on the cadmium yellows and reds. They are the back bone of my approach to painting both in Oils and Watercolors.

Today I stepped into the art store again only to see that Da Vinci Paints is discontinuing half of their color line in watercolors and eliminating some of my most loved colors in the process. All the Quinacridones all the Benzamida. Gone.

So let’s get this straight: What that means is that most of the colorful and vibrant paints that we rely on to produce artwork that is full of light are gone. The colormen have not thought it wise to let us know this was happening. In fact while the “discontinued” signs are up in my art store - and I suspect many others that are not disguised craft stores -  my two favourite colormen Winsor & Newton and Da Vinci Paints continue their social media activities as if nothing is happening.

Perhaps that, more than the fact the many colors are being phased out is what irks me the most. I understand that California leads the way on environmental issues and most of the losses are related to recent legislation there. I am all for environmental protection and lessening the toxins we use every day. But why not tell us what is coming up and what you plan to do to make sure we still have colors that we rely on for our art and in many cases our living? Colormen seem to think of their consumers as hobbyists who do not deserve a thoughtful explanation of what is going on or why. More importantly no one has deemed it worth while to step up and tell us what is their strategy to replace our colors and how.


I think colormen owe us a sincere apology and a full explanation of why the changes have happened and more importantly how they will reload their color lines now that they have discontinued so many.

We relay on colormen for our art, they relay on us as their customers, but the communication from them seems to be limited to advertising and showcasing. That is not enough. We deserve respect and dialogue. We deserve to be consulted and advised. We are Twenty First Century consumers who demand dialogue with our vendors. The era of simple market transactions is gone. We do not accept to be treated with a fait accompli attitude. The colormen who understand that and start engaging us properly will be the ones who will earn our business the most.

One last note since/if I have the attention of colormen: While I understand that the Phthalocyanine blue pigment PB15 PB 15.6 and PB 16 are easily obtained and versatile, we don’t want to see them seep into all our colors. They are not the panacea and you can do better and be more imaginative and innovative. Use them for student colors if you wish, but do not pepper them  through your new lines for us. They are not welcome beyond their narrow forms.