Welcome to MissouriBendStudio!

This is an online journal of my artistic investigations and a way to communicate about my work, ideas, quandries and queries! I welcome comments and conversation and do hope you enjoy these musings. My artwork is available in my shop MissouriBendStudio on Etsy.com or on my website.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Walk Through The Universe: White, week 4

Color: A Natural History of the Palette, by Victoria Finlay

If you are at all interested in color....that is pigment, this book is a must read!  I got it years ago and also read it years ago, which means alas, that I've actually retained very little of what I once read!  But, it's a fascinating look at where pigments come from, how they are made and used and the sometime dire consequences.  I was reminded of this when I scanned back through the chapter on white....some grim details about lead white...perhaps you'll indulge me with reading a few snippets here to pique your interest:

"The greatest of the whites, and certainly the cruellest, is made of lead.  European artists for hundreds of years have rated lead whit as one of the most important paints on their palette--it would often be used in the primer to preare their boards and canvases, and then they would mix it with other pigments to build up layers of color. Finally it would be used to dot the eyes, and for the highlights. If you look at Dutch still-life paintings, lead white is everywhere. You can see it in the glimmer on a silver jar, the snarl on a dog's canines, the slimy shine on a mass of deer entrails, or the shimmer on a pomegrante seed. Fresh or putrid, they all need to shine."

And a snippet of how it was made in Rhodes as described by Pliny in his Natural History

"Workers would put shaving of thin lead over a bowl filled with vinegar. The action of the acid on the thin metal would cause a chemical reaction and leave a white deposit of lead carbonate. The lead workers of Rhodes then powdered it, flattened it into little cakes and left it to dry in the summer sun."

Victoria Finlay travels the world in search of the stories of the pigments that have been used for thousands of years for artists, makeup, musical instruments...you name it!  Most fascinating and highly recommended....by me anyway!

And now a few instances of white paint used in different ways by some of my favorite artists on etsy!  Don't worry....I'm sure the paint is lead free! Follow the links back to their shops for further investigations into their work. Cheers!


  1. ooh, I love that abstract painting!

  2. The Victoria Finlay book is great. Lovely blog.

  3. Hi Brooke....I love that work too....he's got great pieces in his shop...if you're talking about mpalandis, that is. Well, certainly so does Ingrid!
    Glad to have you here!

  4. claire....thank you! Thanks also for the "second" on the book recommendation.

  5. Really interesting about the composition of pigments, Patti. I guess we artists used to suffer a lot more for our art than nowadays with so many health practices in place regarding materials and tools! I know of a stained glass artist who died of lead poisoning, as did his faithful dog, who sat by him in his studio and was equally exposed, a few months after him...but he knew of the dangers and preferred to use "the real thing." Great post, as usual! Take care.

  6. i remember how excited i was by this book, too!
    cheryl porter teaches a great class on early pigments if you ever get a chance to work with her, do it! (i looked on at p.b.i.)

  7. G....Wow...I've never known anyone so exposed to lead that it led to death. The real thing is not always the best thing, although it seems to be at the time.

  8. Velma...I'm not familiar with cheryl porter...will have to look her up! I did attend at pbi at Penland many moons ago...that was great! A class on early pigments would be fascinating! Thanks for your comment!


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