Yellow lake oil paint

Weld yellow lake glaze

Weld yellow lake glaze

I mentioned in the last post an oil color I had used for that practice illustration, which was weld. This is a color I’ve grown in my garden, the reseda luteola, an old dye plant that is just lightfast enough to have been used as a lake pigment by some of the old masters, such as Vermeer. It was commonly called yellow lake. (This term could actually apply to organic yellow lake pigments from many different sources, such as buckthorn berries or quercitron – but by the accounts I’ve read, weld was the most permanent. Even so, it’s considered fugitive by today’s standards, though at one point it was considered sufficiently permanent for artistic use. I have yet to conduct my own lightfastness tests upon it.)

Reseda luteola

Young weld from the garden

Weld is a color I’ve been grinding into a gouache watercolor for some time now, and it’s a great color. I’ll talk more about weld gouache later, and the process of making a lake pigment. This oil paint that I made from the lake more recently is actually my first handmade oil paint, and also my first paint that I’ve tubed (a process on which I’ll also post). It’s intended as a glazing color, something nice and transparent to layer over a dried paint layer of modeled forms underneath. This is the way it was commonly used in the past (though Rembrandt liked to mix his lake pigments directly in with his other colors).

I ground about equal amounts of oil and lake pigment, for a few reasons: that’s about the proportion of gum arabic to pigment in the gouache; that’s what I had read is required for madder lake; and it seemed during grinding to be necessary. As it turns out, it was definitely too much binder. Thanks to a couple of suggestions from the good folks over at the AMIEN forum, I stored the tube upright (cap up) for a few days, and was then able to pour off the extra oil, which had separated from the paint.

Another yellow lake oil glaze

Another glaze

I tried the paint out on some old studio paintings of mine that were ready for the trash bin. The picture at the top shows the lake color glazed over a green ceramic piece, and over parts of the background. The glaze warmed and livened up the green quite a bit, changed the hue of the background completely, and really brought the metallic parts to life. You can tell the two photos were taken under very different lighting conditions (in fact they were taken years apart); but the basic effect of the glaze is there in the second photo. This was only a quick experiment, but it was very exciting for me – painting with an oil paint whose color came from a plant I grew in my own garden! Drunk with power, I tried another, glazing the yellow color over the white shirt of the portrait at right. One thing is clear: painting with glazes requires a bit more planning than this (Color harmony? Hah!). Nice and bright yellow, though, isn’t it? I can’t wait to make some actual studies of glazing using this color – I’ll paint some drapery (something I need to study more anyway) with that in mind. For now, though, I have to get myself moved across town. Moving is never fun, but there’s maybe some good news – I might actually have an honest-to-goodness garage to work from. Here’s hoping…

Edit: we managed to get moved, though it was a near thing. Was not a good experience. However, I’m stoked because I’ve got a little backyard space to raise a few dye plants, instead of doing all of it over at the community garden. Not sure about the garage space yet. Now I get to nurse my lower back to health again…


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