Friday, November 14, 2008

Blue Ridge Artists' Materials

This morning I had a treat: a visit to Blue Ridge Artist's Materials, an artist's oil paint manufacturer here in Asheville. I'd always been curious about paint-making, but I'd never gone farther than mixing up some simple pigments with a palette knife for my own use and information. Blue Ridge is a one-man show. Eric Silver, the paintmaker, is a really nice guy, easy and pleasant to talk with, and knowledgeable and conscientious about his work and his business. It was really kind of thrilling to talk to the paintmaker about what I use and why, what I like, what I don't, how different colors work in my palette. I admitted to being a total paint slut, but mostly about earth colors--so it's not as expensive an addiction as it could be. Eric wants to expand his range of natural pigments--the ochres and umbers and siennas that curl my toes--so I hope he'll keep me in mind as a tester or just as a fan with an opinion. I'm looking forward to a productive two-way relationship with him.

Blue Ridge oils are wonderful.  I got my first order a couple of weeks ago and used many of the colors to finish up the the first two paintings in the current black slip series.  I'm delighted with them.  What a lovely consistency, creamy but not weak or loose.  Really a joy to paint with.  The Flemish white was a bit of a mystery to me--I guess I expected something thicker or heavier, that would require amendments, but it seems like a great mixing white unmediated and that's how I've been using it.  Today Eric let me play with additions to the Flemish white.  Adding his walnut sun oil really does thicken it right up; it's almost magical.   A tiny bit of stearate paste made it creamy; mica powder, as well as thickening it in a dry way, added a nacreous quality.

I generally use a low-chroma palette of mostly earths, and Blue Ridge's natural earths are very good, too.  They have that little bit of grittiness that reminds you where they come from and also seems to give them a specially interesting visual quality, especially when amended with just a bit of medium.  I'm still figuring out where the hue of the natural burnt umber will fit in with my palette; it's lighter color deserves a spot.  The raw sienna is fabulous; it reminds me of Doak's (old) raw sienna and so it's incredibly useful for me.  The raw umber is also perfect for me, very cool and gray.  The hue of the yellow ochre is lovely, not too orange or brown or acidic. 

And then there's the Florentine Lake, what a color.  A vibrant almost alizarin, but a bit more violet.

With an order over $100 Eric sends a free tube of Cobalt Violet Deep.  CV is such a weak tinting but expensive pigment that you feel you don't get enough bang for your buck... but it is a beautiful color and useful in many ways if you're not stingy about using it.  For shadows, to lower the chroma of a yellow, as a spot of violet just for the loveliness of violet.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That does sound like a treat - what a wonderful description of the paints, thanks for sharing. He'd be lucky to get you to test his paints for him...