View Full Version : Q for Titanium and like-minded: grinding lakes

shawn gibson
06-18-2001, 04:25 PM
Hey everyone.

Titanium left some wonderful info in another post regarding the amount of oil some pigments need. But there was no mention of any lakes that I seen.

I just got some old lake pigments in the mail. In general, do these take a lot of oil or a little. It's so expensive and hassly I hope they last forever.

Otherwise I'll possibly be forced to step into this Millenium and start bying organic synthetics.

FWIW, I have cochineal and I think it's called indian lake, i.e., the firery orange red lake from the shellac beetle's hangover (vomit...).

Long live those of us who would rather mimic the dead than live ourselves...or some other poetic stuff!!!

I can not wait to paint this weekend...ugh...it's only Monday.


shawn gibson
06-18-2001, 04:32 PM
I was going to edit my post, but I like the words. I just want to say the long live those of use comment wasn't an attack on anyone who studies like a lot of us do here. It was merely recognition of some of my own ridiculous pursuits...cochineal for exqmple, where I quite easily buy something just as beautiful, more permanent, over the counter, and much less pricey...but hey...it does make me wanna pick up a brush more than a $12 tube of alizarin crimson...shawn

06-19-2001, 01:36 PM
Shawn ,

I don't use lakes , Irgazine Scarlet and Intense Yellow [ Kremer ]
are the only translucents I have.

Still , I can help you a bit here .

Please go to the library and read -

Artists' Pigments [ 3 volumes ]

pg. 266 Vol. 1 Artists' Pigments
Carmine [ Cochineal ] Lakes
100 gms uses 46 to 100 gms Oil .

The report on this pigment is very bad . Please
read up .

shawn gibson
06-19-2001, 02:10 PM
Thanks Titanium, as usual...

I have vol. 2 of that, with vermilion, lapis lazuli, etc.
I've yet to get vol. 3 with madder. I didn't know vol. 1 had cochineal!!!

I've also heard everywhere that cochineal is absolutely fugative--but then it's still sitting there on Rembrandt and others--I'm willing to take the chance just to be happy in the process of painting itself...

I have so much homework!!! I guess I was starting to miss school...and my ego is growing too, so I want the jimmy on stiff

(ok I invented that..this is why I don't hang out...:))

(or write:()


ps I've started a panel combining Rembrandt's white thread at RH's forum--I'm adding the lakes to an impasto of white, if it doesn't decide to slide off the panel first:)

shawn gibson
06-19-2001, 02:22 PM
ps I'm also going to try bitumen. There has to be a reason Titian etc. used it so much!!!

I know Atilla R Lucacs uses tar these days, too...

06-19-2001, 10:52 PM
Originally posted by shawn gibson
ps I'm also going to try bitumen. There has to be a reason Titian etc. used it so much!!!

I know Atilla R Lucacs uses tar these days, too...

Please, please, please... do not use bitumen or coal tar colors.

Painting Materials: A Short Encyclopaedia by Rutherford J. Gettens and George L. Stout.

Asphaltum (bitumen) and other similar tarry compounds are among the least desirable pigments known because they never become permanently dry... ... ... It was much favored by the XVIII century English school, with unfortunate consequences; those paintings which contained it have become disfigured because of shrinkage of the paint films and 'alligatoring.' Harder paint films put over it sometimes crack and curl. Neuhaus says (see footnote in his translation of Doerner's The Materials of the Artist, p. 89): 'Under high summer temperatures in museums without thermostatic control whole areas of the picture surface have moved and become permanently dislocated. Thus in several warm climatic belts of America it has caused the destruction of many paintings of the Munich school which at one time was passionately fond of asphaltum...'

W. Holman Hunt - Letter to the Society of Mural Decorators and Painters in Tempera - 11th Nov., 1907

It is interesting to notice that David and the painters of the French Classical School painted their uninspired productions without this ruinous stuff, but Gericault in his "Wreck" and probably in other cases, doomed his accomplished work to perdition by the use of this Dead Sea pitch, and Horace Vernet did acres of pictures with it which were the wonder of all visitors 50 years ago, but which now can scarcely be looked at.

Why in the world would you want to risk it?

shawn gibson
06-20-2001, 08:59 AM
Hummm...that's a lot worse than a fading lake. Might have to reconsider. It does sound romantic though...

06-20-2001, 10:41 AM
It does sound romantic though...

You can still have the romance without the bitumen. There are lots of materials that have fallen into disfavor for one reason or another... and yes, there are indeed reasons... but many of those older materials can be used safely and beautifully... you just have to know how. "Locking up" fugitive colors is practically an artform all by itself. There is much to learn, much to play with - but there is no point playing with things that can only lead to disaster.

I sense in you something of a kindred spirit... I am as much of an antiquarian as an artist myself. There is much reward to be found in older materials. Unfortunately - if you're not careful - there is much heartache as well.

Have you read Eastlake's Methods and Materials of Painting of the Great Schools and Masters? It is unfortunately out of print :crying: but you can still find copies in used and rare book stores. It is often expensive... but occasionally you can find a good price. I got both volumes for under $25... but that was the cheapest I've ever seen them - they usually go for a lot more. Check the library too. It sounds like this is something you would very much like to read.

shawn gibson
06-20-2001, 10:58 AM
Yah, I'm really starting to think locking up is the key...afterall, the proof is in the pudding, so to speak...and Rembrandt's cochineal is still gorgeous. I've read locking a substance into a resin (I think it was Blockx, so that'd be amber, 20 grand a snort...) helps create a stabilizing matrix...greater permancy.

As for the cochineal, I'm also toying with the possibility of including it in a matrix imbued with canada balsam and egg yolk...who knows?

I've been trying to get the Eastlake book, looking around. I keep hearing it comes. A couple places will call when it does:)

06-20-2001, 11:47 AM
Originally posted by shawn gibson
(I think it was Blockx, so that'd be amber, 20 grand a snort...)

Check out Rob Howard's site for amber:


I've not used his product, but his stuff generally gets good reviews, and I think he's got the best price around on amber varnish. (Don't know what that price is though...)

I have read that copal should work well too... but it just doesn't have the same romance. ;) Rob also sells copal... but I've heard good things about the Garrett product as well:


shawn gibson
06-20-2001, 12:02 PM
Thanks sg (can I call you that?)

I have RH's copal, just started using it recently to combat the price of tree snot made deer by dino movies...

I am really looking forward to doing some tests with canada balsam and cochineal, lac (both from Kremer), and madder this weekend...over white, of course, thick impaso yummi...

06-20-2001, 01:01 PM
Originally posted by shawn gibson
Thanks sg (can I call you that?)

Certainly... most people do.

Scott Methvin
06-20-2001, 04:05 PM
Originally posted by sgtaylor

Please, please, please... do not use bitumen or coal tar colors.

Why in the world would you want to risk it?

Respectfully, bitumen or asphaltium are quite different than coal "tar" colors. The brownish asphaltum or bitumen (Titanium's island's largest export) is well, ...asphalt. And it is stupid to use. Never dries. Like painting with vaseline and waiting for it to dry.:p

Coal tar colors, on the other hand, are the basis and the foundation of most of our best modern colors. Thalo blue and hansa yellow to name but 2 of thousands. Coal tar is the basis of aniline dyes also.

Some of the older books, like Gettens and Stout, or Constable or even Reich minister Duerner are dated to the point where they are still unfamiliar with what we now use all the time today.

Thalo blue is about as permenent as a color gets.

Tar isn't always tar. (depends on the definition of what is is)

06-20-2001, 05:41 PM
Originally posted by Scott Methvin
Coal tar colors, on the other hand, are the basis and the foundation of most of our best modern colors. Thalo blue and hansa yellow to name but 2 of thousands. Coal tar is the basis of aniline dyes also.

:eek: :confused: :eek:


I'm confused... I've been reading for years that coal tar colors are "bad" and not used anymore... and I've never heard that Thalo and hansa were coal tar colors. Of course, I've also heard that one should generally avoid dyes in painting as well.

Maybe it's time for me to catch up (I never made it past the Edwardian era :( )

Perhaps you could recommend some reading for me? If what you say is true... I am sooooooooooo out of touch.

(It's bad enough being a dinosaur... but I really hate being wrong :( )

shawn gibson
06-21-2001, 09:48 AM
For anyone interested, this was my experience last night with grinding these pigments (cochineal, lac dye/Indian lake/whatever it's called.../and vermilion)). I actually didn't 'grind' any of them, just worked them with my palatte knife.

With each of them, I placed the dry pigment on fibre-based (fixed and hypo-treated) photographic paper. Then I added an amount of RH's special aged oil (started with 10mL for 20g of cochineal--thanks Titanium!!--, and used this as the base for the rest).

Cochineal: that amount of oil was enough to give me the little 'stones' I like to get when mixing pigment into a base oil. I keep it really dry at this stage--I can literally pick up the stones without getting fingers covered in colour. After letting this mass set for about 20 minutes (to see if the oil would separate or disperse anymore), I added about 7mL of stand oil, then re mixed with knife. Then I added about the same amount of Canada Balsam (what amazing stuff...I am in heaven!!!); and about 4 mL of Copal. I finished with just a touch of stand to get the consistency I wanted (a couple of mL at the most).

Lac: The process was the same; however, it took less oil, which meant I had to put more pigment in. After adding about the same mixture of oil/balsam/resin (and the extra pigment...about 30g compared to 20g of cochineal), I ended up with a smaller mass than the cochineal.

Vermilion: not at all what I expected!!! It is a semi-tertiary red-orange, much less brilliant than cadmium, but an extremely beautiful colour that seems to thrive when you look at it sideways...an awesome colour. I'm going to get Holbein vermilion/cadmium mix to use under it, and the final layer or 2 will be the Kremer vermilion.

I am a little worried about the lakes...they seem awfully dense and compact in colour...<b>would you recommend actually grinding them with a pestle/mortar?</b>