Monday Morning Art School: pigment and race

We all know race is an artificial construct, yet we persist in using it anyway. It’s not even skin deep. It doesn’t exist at all.

The Servant, Carol L. Douglas, is on display at the Rye Arts Center for the month of March.

There is nothing that worries me more about the future of our democracy than Daylight Savings Time. It serves no practical purpose and disrupts our sleep schedules twice a year. Yet we can’t seem to get our corporate act in gear and rid of it.

I don’t just say that because I forgot to reset the clock on the coffee-maker last night.

This week I’ll be teaching my classes to mix and use a variety of skin tones. The actual mixing is fairly simple; there’s a complete chart just below that will get you to every color you might need. It’s the application that’s so fascinating and difficult.

There are darker and lighter people, of course; to catch their color, just adjust the amount of white (or water) you use. There are also warmer and cooler skin tones. That’s why my chart has different rows. If your model is more olive, stick with a row that gives you more green tones. If pinker, choose a row that tends in that direction. You don’t need to mix all these colors for each model; it’s just a guide to set you in the right direction.

My original painted chart is ratty and worn but I also included it so you can see what the colors look like in paint rather than Adobe Illustrator.

Natural light hitting the human skin is far more variable than we see indoors. We live (and paint) under artificial light. That narrows the color range dramatically, which is why painting the model under spotlights is poor practice. Photography also narrows the chromatic range of human skin. However, painting from life in natural light is not always possible.

There are greens, purples, and yellows in every person’s skin. The ears, face, fingers and toes all tend to pink; there’s blood closer to the surface. Some of us have visible traceries of blue veins. There are lovely greens and mauves in shadows. In fact, the only difference between my landscape palette and my studio palette is that red always makes an appearance inside.

Self-portrait at the age of 63 (detail) Rembrandt van Rijn, 1669, National Portrait Gallery

Rembrandt was a master at capturing these subtle, varying colors in the human skin, as shown in the detail from his last self-portrait, above. He did this with the narrowest of palettes—essentially earth pigments with white. And yet he fools us into seeing a whole range of colors including blues and greens.

Rembrandt also painted Two African Men, below. Unfortunately, its surface is in such bad repair that it’s impossible to see what colors he saw in their skin. However, he would have used the same paints as he used in his own self-portrait. They’re all he had available.

Two African Men, 1661, Rembrandt van Rijn, courtesy Mauritshuis

Our actual skin color is based on just one pigment, melanin. Lighter people just have more blue-white connective tissue and hemoglobin showing through.

We talk of Asians as having ‘yellow’ skin. That’s a modern lie. In the 13th century Travels of Marco Polo, the people of China are described as white. Eighteenth century missionaries also called Japanese and other East Asians white.

The ‘yellow’ label can be laid squarely at the feet of science. The father of modern taxonomy, Carl Linnaeus, first used the label fuscus (dark) to describe the skin color of Asians. Later, he began calling them luridus instead. That translates to ‘pale yellow’, ‘wan’, ‘sallow’, ‘lurid’—with a dash of ‘horrifying’ attached.

The father of comparative anatomy, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, used the word gilvus, which translates to ‘yellow’. (He’s also the guy who started calling Asians ‘Mongolians’.) By the nineteenth century, westerners were completely sold on the idea that Asians were yellow. Thanks, Science.

The farther down the Italian boot you go, the more you find genetic mixtures with Greeks, North Africans and Middle Easterners. That’s no surprise; the Mediterranean was the original melting pot. Southern Italians and Greeks are often very dark in color. 

It’s no surprise that neither were considered quite white in 19th century America (although they had that designation for naturalization purposes). In fact the largest mass lynching in American history was of Italian-Americans. What’s more peculiar is that some people didn’t consider Irish-Americans white, either.

We all know race is an artificial construct, yet we persist in using it anyway. Paint-mixing shows us that the similarity in our coloration is far greater than the differences. Race isn’t skin-deep; it doesn’t exist at all.

Cheap paint is a false economy

Don’t skimp on paint quality, or you’ll defeat yourself from the outset.

Ogunquit, by Carol L. Douglas. If the pigment isn’t in the paint to start with, you can’t magically enhance it. 

When I send supply lists, I suggest brands. These are Golden for acrylics, QoR for watercolor, and RGH or Gamblin for oils. In pastels, there is too much variation in hardness for a blanket recommendation, but I like Unison myself. Of course, nobody’s paying me for these endorsements; they’re just my preferences.

That doesn’t mean these are the only good art supplies out there. They have a combination of pigment load and handling characteristics that I like. There are many excellent makers of paint out there. They come in a variety of price points, but price is not the sole indicator of quality.

Late October, Beauchamp Point, by Carol L. Douglas

There are an equal number of horrible paints on the market. You might think you’ve saved a few bucks, but they’re an expensive mistake, one that will cost you time in learning. Don’t skimp on paint quality, or you’ll defeat yourself from the outset. Instead, cut down on the number of colors you buy.

All paints (and pastels) consist of pigment and a binder. There are differences in the quality of binders, in the amount of pigment the manufacturer uses, and how the pigments are stabilized. There may be filler added, or drying agents.

Most major paint brands in the US subscribe to voluntary associations of quality control. (RGH is an exception; that’s too bad, because their paint is excellent.) The most well-known is Colour Index International (CII), a database dating back to 1925. It contains over 27,000 individual products sold under 13,000 different product names. This standard classification system gives you the facts about the pigments in your tube.

Autumn Farm, by Carol L. Douglas

Just as Benjamin Moore uses names like Yukon Sky to peddle grey paint, art paints are often marketed with evocative names. These names appeal to our sense of tradition, even when the old paint has no relationship to its namesake. If you buy Naples Yellow thinking you’re buying an historic pigment, think again: the modern paint is a convenience mix replacing the historic (and toxic) lead antimonate.

Expect to find, at minimum, the following information on the label of your paint tube:

  • Manufacturer’s name or common name for the color.
  • The CII number and, sometimes, the name of the pigment(s).
  • The manufacturer’s lightfastness or permanence rating.

The CII code consists of two letters and some numbers. Most paints start with a “P” which means it’s a pigment, not a dye. The next letter is the color family:  PR is red, PY is yellow, etc. The number is the specific pigment included in the tube.

Save this link somewhere accessible from your phone: https://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/waterfs.html

You’ll need it when you shop. This pigment guide was built for watercolors but is generally true across all media. (Watercolor is the canary in the coalmine of pigments). All painters should understand lightfastness, transparency, and color shift. Granulation, bloom and diffusion, however, are watercolor-specific issues. 

Winch, by Carol L. Douglas

When you compare paints with the same names, check their CIIs. Are they the same or different pigments? A “hue,” is made of a blend of less-expensive pigments. There is nothing inherently wrong with hues, but they don’t behave the same as the pigments they’re named after. For example, “cadmium yellow hue” may look like cadmium yellow coming out of the tube, but it makes insipid greens.

There’s little to be gained by buying a hue mimicking a more expensive pigment. If you are comfortable painting with a hue, then learn what’s in it and mix it yourself. You always have the greatest flexibility by working with pure pigments (rather than mixes) out of the tube.

Most manufacturers include their own lightfastness ratings on the tube. This is a measure of how quickly the color fades. If it’s not listed, look it up.

The series number tells you the price. Are pricier pigments better? Not by a long shot. Twentieth-century manufacturing gave us a new world of inexpensive pigments, which tend to be less toxic, higher in chroma and lightfast.

I’m thinking about supply lists because it’s time to send them out for Find Your Authentic Voice in Plein Air in Tallahassee, Florida, in early November. There are enough students to go, but there are still openings, so I’d be excited if you signed up. s

From there on in, it’s all Zoom, Zoom, Zoom until the snow stops flying. The Tuesday morning class is sold out; there are still openings for Monday night Zoom classes.

Pigment and race

We all know race is an artificial construct, yet we persist in using it anyway. It’s not even skin deep. It doesn’t exist at all.
Figure Commission, by Carol L. Douglas, private collection.
Yesterday I pulled out a chart that demonstrates how to mix a full range of skin tones. (There are darker and lighter people, of course; to catch their color, just adjust the amount of white you use.) This chart is ratty and worn, so I remade it for my students and now I’m sharing it with you.
There are cool tints in the left column and warm colors across the top. Mix them together in rows, and you get a wonderful array of skin tones. The solid warms are always the base; whether you use grey or violet or blue to modulate the colors depends on the underlying tones in your model.
Painting this chart is a great exercise in mixing colors.

Natural light hitting the human skin is far more variable than we see indoors. We live (and paint) under artificial light. That narrows the color range, which is why I hate painting figure under spotlights.

There are greens, purples, and yellows in every person’s skin. The ears, face, fingers and toes all tend to pink; there’s blood closer to the surface. Some of us have visible traceries of blue veins. There are lovely greens and mauves in shadows. In fact, the only difference between my landscape palette and my studio palette is that red always makes an appearance inside.
My studio copy is pretty worn.
The colors on my chart are likenesses, of course. Our actual skin color is based on just one pigment, melanin. Lighter people just have more blue-white connective tissue and hemoglobin showing through.
We moderns talk of Asians as having ‘yellow’ skin. That’s a modern lie. In the 13th century Travels of Marco Polo, the people of China are described as white. Eighteenth century missionaries also called Japanese and other East Asians white.
The ‘yellow’ label can be laid squarely at the feet of science. The father of modern taxonomy, Carl Linnaeus, first used the label fuscus (dark) to describe the skin color of Asians. Later, he began calling them luridus instead. That translates to ‘pale yellow’, ‘wan’, ‘sallow’, ‘lurid’—with a dash of ‘horrifying’ attached.
The father of comparative anatomy, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, used the word gilvus, which translates to ‘yellow’. (He’s also the guy who started calling Asians ‘Mongolians’.) By the nineteenth century, westerners were completely sold on the idea that Asians were yellow. Thanks, Science.
The Servant, by Carol L. Douglas
Yesterday’s class included half-Japanese and Chinese students. Both of them are as pink as I am. The student with the yellowest skin was a blue-eyed Northern European with an addiction to carrots. He has stained himself a terrific saffron color.
The farther down the Italian boot you go, the more you find genetic mixtures with Greeks, North Africans and Middle Easterners. That’s no surprise; the Mediterranean was the original melting pot. Southern Italians and Greeks are often very dark in color. 
It’s no surprise that neither were considered quite white in 19th century America (although they had that designation for naturalization purposes). In fact the largest mass lynching in American history was of Italian-Americans. What’s more peculiar is that some people didn’t consider Irish-Americans white, either.
We all know race is an artificial construct, yet we persist in using it anyway. Paint-mixing shows us that the similarity in our coloration is far greater than the differences. Race isn’t skin-deep; it doesn’t exist at all.

Human skin tones

We come in an amazing array of colors, but they can all be mixed with the same narrow array of pigments. Why is that?

When Brazilian photographer Angélica Dass was six, her teacher told her to use the skin-tone crayon for a drawing. “I looked at that pink and thought, how can I tell her this is not my skin color?” That night, she prayed to wake up white, she toldNina Strochlic of National Geographic.

If you have close friendships with non-white Americans, you have heard variations on this riff. That’s particularly true if you’re of an age when blacks were invisible in commercial culture. When I was a kid, there were no African-American dolls in the stores, and few children’s books with black protagonists.
Iron oxide yellow, courtesy Wikimedia Commons
There is no underlying biological construct of race. The idea of separate races was the brainchild of a 19th century physician and scientist, Samuel Morton. He rejected the Creation Story in Genesis and argued, instead, that each of the five different races in the world was created as a separate species. (Remember that the next time someone tells you that believing in the Bible is somehow anti-science.)
Morton claimed that he could define the intellectual ability of a race by its skull capacity. Caucasians were, naturally, at the top of his chart. Negroes were at the bottom. His theories carried a certain amount of weight in American culture until they were shredded by the late paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould in The Mismeasure of Man.
Burnt sienna pigment, courtesy Wikimedia Commons
But back to Angélica Dass. She married a Spaniard, and she began to wonder about the question of human skin color. In 2012, she started photographing members of her and her spouse’s families. She then matched a strip of pixels from their noses to a Pantone color card. Humanae arose from this. It now includes 4,000 portraits from 18 different countries.
“So-o-o-o-o many colors of skin, not just black, white, red, or yellow,” the reader who sent this to me commented. That’s true, but it’s also true that all human skin colors can be made with just a few pigments.
There’s really no such thing as white skin color, black skin color, or Asian skin color. They are mixed with the same array of paints; we just control how much white paint we add to the mix. My guide to mixing skin tones can be found here, but it’s also possible to mix all human skin tones with just iron oxide pigments. These range in tone from yellow through orange and red to black.
Iron oxide pigment, courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Iron is the most common element on earth, comprising almost a third of our planet’s total bulk. The second most-common element is oxygen. Iron oxides are chemical compounds of those two elements. They are extremely widespread in nature, appearing as rust and hemoglobin, among many other things. Humans use them in the form of iron ore, from which much of modern civilization was built. Iron oxide also gave us mankind’s first pigments, in the form of ochre, in use for 100,000 years. The iron oxide pigments are not only plentiful, they’re very safe.
Iron oxide powder, courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Our coloration is intimately related to our planet. We are creatures of the earth, tied to the earth, and created here. Our pigmentation points not only to that, but to the universality of mankind, despite the artificial and abusive construct of skin color.
It’s about time for you to consider your summer workshop plans. Join me on the American Eagle, at Acadia National Park, at Rye Art Center, or at Genesee Valley this summer.

Monday Morning Art School: how to read a paint tube

Knowing how to buy colors will save your time and money in the long run.

Pigments for sale on market stall, 2005, by Dan Brady. Thank heavens we don’t have to buy pigments in this form in America. It’s dangerous and inconsistent.

Modern painters expect to open a new tube of paint and squeeze out something recognizable. A tube of ultramarine blue made by any reputable manufacturer will have approximately the same amount of oil, and dry in about the same time to about the same gloss and transparency. The differences in binder and pigment load are subtle compared to the products available before the twentieth century.
That’s not by accident. Paint manufacturers subscribe to voluntary associations of quality control. One of these is Colour Index International (CII), a database dating back to 1925. It contains over 27,000 individual products sold under 13,000 different product names. This standard classification system ignores historic, proprietary, and generic names and gives you ‘just the facts, ma’am.’
Just as Benjamin Moore uses names like “Yukon Sky” to peddle grey paint, art paints are often marketed with evocative names. These names appeal to our sense of tradition, even when the old paint has no relationship to its namesake. For example, Indian Yellow no longer has anything to do with the urine of cattle which were fed mango leaves. Today it is made from lightfast diarylide yellow (PY83). If you buy Naples Yellow thinking you’re buying an historic pigment, think again: the modern paint is a convenience mix replacing the historic lead antimonate, which would do you and your painting no good.
The basic information on a tube of acrylic paint. If you’re not seeing this on the tube or display, proceed with caution.
Expect to find, at minimum, the following information on the label of your paint tube:
  • Manufacturer’s name or common name for the color.
  • The CII number and, sometimes, the name of the pigment(s).
  • The manufacturer’s lightfastness or permanence rating.

The CII code consists of two letters and some numbers. Most paints start with a “P” which means it’s a pigment, not a dye. The next letter is the color family:  PR is red, PY is yellow, etc. The number is the specific pigment included in the tube.
Save this link somewhere accessible from your phone: https://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/waterfs.html
You’ll need it when you shop. This is Bruce MacEvoy’s Handprint pigment guide. It was built for watercolors but is generally true across all media. (Watercolor is the canary in the coalmine of pigments). All painters should understand lightfastness, transparency, and color shift. Granulation, bloom and diffusion, however, are watercolor-specific issues. 
Handprint doesn’t rate pigments for toxicity but comments on it in the notes. Most modern pigments are safe for the painters. For the manufacturers (who may be children in a third-world country) it’s another story.
Beautiful tube, evocative name, but it’s just a blend of PB 29 and PV 19 (Ultramarine Blue and Quinacridone Rose) which you already have on your palette. Many manufacturers offer the same mix under different names.
When you find two colors from different manufacturers that look the same, check their CIIs. Chances are that they contain radically different pigments.
A “hue,” is made of a blend of less-expensive pigments. There is nothing inherently wrong with these pigments, but they don’t behave the same as the more expensive ones, and you should at least know what you’re buying.
Generally speaking, there’s little to be gained by buying a hue mimicking a more expensive pigment. If you are comfortable painting with a hue, then learn what’s in it and mix it yourself. You always have the greatest flexibility by working with pure pigments (rather than mixes) out of the tube.
Most manufacturers include their own lightfastness ratings on the tube. This is a measure of how fast the color fades. If it’s not listed, look it up.
The series number tells you the price. Why are some paints more expensive than others? That’s based on the raw pigments and what they cost the maker. Are pricier pigments better? Not by a long shot. Twentieth-century manufacturing gave us a new world of inexpensive pigments, which tend to be less toxic, higher in chroma and lightfast.
It’s about time for you to consider your summer workshop plans. Join me on the American Eagle, at Acadia National Park, at Rye Art Center, or at Genesee Valley this summer.

Choosing your paints

My own palette contains no greens. I mix them.
There are millions of possible palette combinations out there, and there is no one ‘correct’ system. My goals in choosing pigments are:
·          Lightfastness
·          Transparency
·          Single pigment
·          Position on the color wheel
·          Environmental friendliness
Understanding the difference between pigments and colors is essential in buying the right paint. Almost all paints sold in the US carry a Pigment CI name in tiny letters somewhere on the label. Learn to buy paint from this, rather than the poetic color name under which the paint is marketed.
Top row: hansa yellow, yellow ochre, raw sienna, burnt sienna. Second row: Indian yellow, cadmium orange, quinacridone violet, ultramarine blue. Bottom row: Prussian blue, ivory black, titanium white. The carrier was Jamie Grossman’s idea and I’ve used it for several seasons instead of tubes.
The single-pigment paints are made with only one pigment. Thus, cobalt blue contains only the pigment PB28; Prussian Blue contains onlythe pigment PB27. Paint manufacturers often blend pigments to approximate discontinued historic colors (Naples yellow or Alizarin Crimson) or to sell cheaper ‘hues’ of pricier paints, like the cadmiums.
My own palette doesn’t usually contain a true red, but when I use one, it’s generally naphthol red, because I’m concerned about the consequences of cadmium manufacture in China. Sadly, I’ve not found a substitute for cadmium orange, which is one of the three solid opaque pigments I use (the others being titanium white and yellow ochre).
Long after my own palette was written in stone, I came across this in a Grumbacher book and realized what I’m doing is pairing primaries.
My palette is roughly based on the idea of paired primaries. This means I have two blues—a warm and a cool—two yellows—a warm and a cool—and two ‘reds’, which in this case are quinacridone violet and cadmium orange. I fill these out with a variety of ‘earth tones’ because these are inexpensive paints and save me a lot of mixing.

Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park in 2015 or Rochester at any time. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops! Download a brochure here.

Hey, Carol, what am I supposed to buy for this workshop?

Years ago, I took a figure workshop from a well-known American figure painter. On receiving his supply list, I noted several pigments that are not normally on my palette. Two were transparent earth colors; one was Naples yellow; one was cadmium green. I duly bought them, took the workshop, and came home having never touched them. The transparent earths were occasionally useful for glazing, but that $20 tube of cadmium green sat in my cabinet until it thickened and died.
I never want to do that to anyone. (Not that I’m totally immune to it; my oldest students will remember my infatuation with Payne’s Grey back in the day.)
Here are my paint supply lists for both local plein air painting (in Rochester) and workshop painting in Maine this summer:
·         Watercolor
·         Pastels
·         Oils
I expect that experienced painters already have a palette they like and tools they’re comfortable with. If you have questions about why I have something included, just ask; you may already have something that can substitute.
Nevertheless, there are certain paints I recommend at the expense of others. For example, it never makes sense to buy alizarin crimson. The real thing (PR83) is extremely fugitive,*
so many manufacturers have decided to make “hue” formulations that mimic it. Many of these are either also fugitive and or so high-stain that they tend to bleed up through drying paint. Yet alizarin crimson is a staple in the paintboxes of so-called traditionalists.
How much more sensible it is to buy straight up quinacridone magenta (PR122) and mix it to the color you want when you need it!
Another example is Naples yellow, which was originally made of yellow antimony (PY 41) and is one of the oldest of pigments. Unfortunately, it’s also extremely toxic. There are a million proximates on the market—so called “convenience mixes”—because that dense, chalky yellow is extremely useful in landscape painting. But why carry a convenience mix when you can make up something equally as useful from yellow ochre and white, which both have a million other uses on the palette? (Yes, I know some of you watercolorists take great pride in never using white, but when you use a Naples yellow you’re using white whether or not you admit it.)
On the other hand, there arepigments that make reasonable substitutions. For example, I want oil painters to have a high-stain greenish blue, but phthalo blue cyan (PB15:3) will just do as well as Prussian blue (PB 27) if that’s what you have.
Recently I wrote about hues and the Color Index system. Handprint has a more detailed explanation here. For the sake of efficient painting, I urge you to avoid hues and convenience mixes. Single pigment paints are most efficient in the field.
And if you haven’t signed up for my Rochester classes or Maine workshops, what on earth are you waiting for? August and September are sold out for my workshop at Lakewatch Manor in Rockland, ME… and the other sessions are selling fast.  Join us in June, July and October, but please hurry! Check here for more information.

*”Fugitive” just means the pigment fades over time, and real alizarin crimson—an extract of the madder plant—is among the most fugitive pigments of all.

In the end, it all comes down to footwear.

Practical for plein air painting as long as there aren’t deer ticks.

CT asks: I paint with water-soluble oils. I don’t know if this goes for regular oil paints, too, but I’m struck by the various textures and viscosities of different colors—from a cadmium yellow so thick it’s hard to get it out of the tube, to oily paints like the siennas. I know that you’re dealing with different pigments, so it takes different amount of oil to suspend them. But when you are trying to paint with them, how do you deal with the extremes? (Maybe you’ll tell me that that’s not a problem with “real” oil paint.)
Yes, water-miscible oils behave differently from regular oils. When severely thinned, water miscible paint tends to slip around like watercolor. When used straight from the tube, it tends to drag more than conventional oils. This means that the natural impact of viscosity range is somewhat exaggerated for you.
That range comes from the pigments themselves.  A paint’s opacity is directly related to its particle size (ergo its viscosity). The oldest pigments—the earths—tend to have large particles and be relatively heavy paints, since they’re basically just ground-up minerals. The 19th century pigments—most notably the cadmiums—tend to be moderately-large particles and so are moderately heavy. The 20th century transparent synthetic organic pigments generally tend to be high stain and more transparent.
There are a couple other factors involved. Making paint is an art in itself, and various manufacturers mill and mix pigments differently. Different brands of paint have radically different pigment loads, so the same color from two different makers may vary greatly in texture. Some paintmakers use driers, and sometimes paints sit for a long time before being sold, meaning you occasionally come up with a half-dried tube right from the store. Paints that stand (especially in high temperatures) can separate,  so the beginning of the tube is all oil and the end is stiff.
A sophisticated painter understands and works with the natural weights of pigments. This is especially crucial in watercolor, but it’s true for opaque media as well. This is, in fact, the fundamental trick of indirect painting, where a base painting of transparent earth tones is laid down and then painted into with opaque paints.
Cute, and about $8 from Old Navy, but ridiculous for plein air painting.


TG asks: “What kind of shoes do you recommend for plein airpainting?”
Next week I’ll be painting during a cocktail party fundraiser for the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.  I’m tentatively planning on wearing red patent-leather flats, a beaded skirt, silk blouse and pearls (with a smock, of course). But I admit that isn’t my typical painting garb.
There are two major issues with footwear: that you can tolerate being on your feet for several hours at a time, and that they be suitable for the environment in which you’re painting.
When working in an area without deer ticks, I favor sport sandals that can tolerate water. (I often find myself not just painting the river but slopping around in the river.)

But ticks (or black flies) mean you have to have a bug barrier of some kind, and the most effective one I know is clothing: long pants, socks and sneakers.
In the winter, I wear waterproof hiking boots and wool socks if I’m likely to get my shoes wet, or sneakers and wool socks if I’m not. Some painters carry a scrap of carpet on which to stand.
If you’re in an area with rough trails and you plan on backpacking your painting stuff up them, real hiking boots are in order. There is no agony like that of insufficient footwear on a rough trail, particularly if you’re packing any weight in a backpack.

August and September are sold out for my workshop at Lakewatch Manor in Rockland, ME.  Join us in June, July and October, but please hurry! Check here for more information.

To each their own, within limits of course…

Look, Ma! No red! The red tones are made of quinacridone violet and  cadmium orange. (Finger Lakes marshes in autumn, 14X18, oil on canvasboard)

JG writes: What red do you like for plein air painting? Are there any substitutes for cadmium red that work as well but are cheaper?
Dear JG: I have pigments I like that others will find incomprehensible. That’s not just a question of personal taste; it is also a matter of where you live and the colors of the rocks, the soil, the foliage and the light.
I stopped using cadmium red many years ago because I could never use it up before the tubes hardened. It seems like a pricey paint to use as a modulator for greens. Where I live, there are few naturally-occurring true reds, even in the headiest autumn days, and cadmium red always seemed to obtrude unnecessarily. For a time I substituted naphthol red. It’s cheaper, tends to harden in the tube less quickly, and is less chalky when mixed with white. However, it tends (like cadmium red) to make muddy violets.
A few years ago, I stopped using red completely, and now I mix a combination of quinacridone violet and cadmium orange as an approximate substitute for red in the landscape. (I still use cadmium red for figure painting.) That gives me the weight of cadmium red, but it’s slightly less glaring, and the quinacridone violet permits me to mix to the blue-violet side without muddiness.
And while we’re on the subject, there are no greens in this painting, either.  (Catskill waterfall, 11X14, oil on canvas)

CB writes: I bought a paint labeled “Cerulean Blue Hue” that was a lot cheaper than the Cerulean Blue. What’s the difference?
Dear CB: A paint that is called a “hue,” such as “cadmium red hue,” is made of a blend of less-expensive pigments. There is nothing inherently wrong with these pigments, but they don’t behave the same as the more expensive ones, and you should at least know what you’re buying.
Every tube of paint made by a reputable manufacturer has a Color Index Name in really tiny type. This—rather than the seductive and often romanticized paint name—is what you should pay attention to. It’s a simple code, and no chemistry knowledge is necessary.
The vast majority of paints start with the letter P, which means it’s a pigment. Following that is a letter that indicates the basic hue family: R for red, O for orange, Y for yellow, G for green, B for blue, V for violet, Br for brown, W for white, Bk for black. Then there’s a number referring to the specific pigment itself. This is the best chart I know for paint pigments; it was designed for watercolor, but the pigment characteristics are the same through all media.
Generally speaking, there’s little to be gained by buying a hue mimicking a more expensive pigment. If you are comfortable painting with Cerulean Blue’s proximate, then it behooves you to learn what’s in it and mix it yourself, since you always have the greatest flexibility by working with pure pigments (rather than mixes) out of the tube.
If you’re interested in joining me for a fantastic time in mid-Coast Maine this summer, check here for more information.