Friday, September 2, 2011

Another Rose, Another Pigment

I bought some mars violet powdered pigment and wanted to try it out. There are many colors with the word "mars" in the name, all in the reddish region of the spectrum. There is mars yellow and mars violet, though they both have a brownish/reddish cast to them, but there is no mars green or blue. Mars implies that the pigment is an iron oxide, basically a type of rust. The color of the rust depends on the size of the rust particles. The Roman god Mars was the god of war and was associated with iron. The planet Mars is reddish in color because of all the iron oxides in the soil. The word mars in the color name also indicates that the pigment has been synthesized industrially, not found in its natural state. Iron oxide pigments that are found as is in the ground are called hematites, goethites, and magnetites, depending on the particular chemical structure of the iron oxide.

There is no difference chemically between the synthesized and the naturally occurring pigments. However, the physical structure of the pigment particles may differ enough that their handling and visual properties in paint are a bit different. Also, naturally occurring pigments have bits of other minerals mixed in that are not completely separated out by those who gather pigments. These other minerals also affect the color and handling properties of the paint. Ochre, sienna, and umber also are names for naturally occurring iron oxide-containing pigments. However, these contain  the iron oxide (goethite, etc.) in a clay form with various other minerals like silica and manganese oxide.

In this painting, I used mars violet in the dark areas. The bits of iron move about in a wash the way iron filings do in the presence of a magnet, just like my bloodstone watercolor does (which is a natural hematite pigment).  I used only two other colors - quinacridone gold and ultramarine blue. I painted it on Langton Prestige cold press, 6.5"x8.5", completed in August, 2011.

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