Re: Why Winsor & Newton?

From: Judy Seigel ^lt;[email protected]>
Date: 05/29/05-03:33:32 PM Z
Message-id: <>

On Sun, 29 May 2005, Robert M wrote:

> I am ever so curious. What is so special about Winsor & Newton paints? It is
> not like they are the only manufacturer of suitable pigments. Are they?

Oh lordy, it's like the Aesops fable about how the magpie learned to build
its nest, or that's what leaps to mind. I probably should have kept my
mouth shut -- as instructed by our esteemed "list minder." However,
having opened the can of worms, to mix metaphors -- here's some history:

These processes, including and especially gum printing, had been dead as
doornails before most of you were born. The "rule breakers" starting in
the late 60s & 70s, especially people like Robert Fichter, Bea Nettles,
and Betty Hahn, revived them -- which (those of you who read my interview
with Hahn reprinted in Post-Factory, Issue #8, may recall) were done for
the most part by going back to the original literature, yes, Paul
Anderson, but also Demachy, Kuehn, etc. This was before the internet and
digital indexes, if you could believe, there WAS life before the internet
or what passed for life (Chris, light a candle!), but not so quick & easy,
they had to go to the library, beg and cry, and not just any library,
because Podunk might not have even Henney and Dudley, or if it did nobody
knew to ask for it.

In any event (do I digress? tough!) they brought the processes back from
the dead and started a veritable cascade, origin of the domino
theory perhaps, of books -- MOST of which were lifted from theirs, but
like the game of telephone, probably diluted with each generation. By
1980 there were MANY manuals in print, some better than others, some
worse -- though the artwork was (almost) always inspiring.

In those days, as some of you have surmised, watercolor paints, ESPECIALLY
cheap watercolor paints, had fugitive unnamed who-knew-what for pigments,
no standards, no codes, no numbers, and the marked (and many unmarked)
"student" grades were full of fillers -- it took 3 or 4 or 6 times as much
pigment to get a given intensity of color. Also dispersal agents, which
MIGHT have helped a newby watercolorist but killed gum printing because
the emulsion wouldn't clear. Also folks generally entered the medium as
*photographers* and knew diddle about paint. I at least had the advantage
of entering as a former painter, and had Ralph Mayer's handbook on paint,
and though it's probably superceded by more recent works, it still has a
lot of good basic info about pigments and basic concepts like "covering
power" of given pigments, etc. As someone just surmised, it's not just the
amount of pigment but the pigment itself that matters.

Meanwhile, the one make that really was "state of the art" archival, as
someone said, "consistent" and quite pure ingredients, no junk fillers,
also widely available, from Podunk to Petchutch was indeed Winsor Newton.
And, without the internet one person's experience wasn't so widely and
easily shared as today on this list. So other makes that might have worked
didn't get the coverage.... they also could and did change at will. Winsor
Newton was the gold standard in other words, and several of the early
books said don't dink around, you're safe with WN, which is what I told my
students for many years. And when they did a gum coat that WOULD NOT
CLEAR it was almost always for 1 of 2 reasons -- either they had dried the
emulsion with hairdryer on hot (the "disease of not listening" as my
father would say) or used paint from an offbrand cheap watercolor "kit"

The fellow who started this thread with his "Gum Woes" as I recall said WN
was recommended in his tutorial, or manual, and that's what I was
referring to -- I know Katherine knows pigments, has probably tried more
than I have.

However, I will add that the last time I used Winsor Newton it was an
ultramarine blue -- granted that was 10 years ago but the color stained,
wouldn't clear, actually the one WN paint that gave trouble.

Also, however, I would not EVER use ultramarine in any make when
attempting *realistic* tricolor, which this fellow's book must also have
advised. If it did, bonfire it. Not that a dandy color print couldn't be
made with ultramarine -- but that's the advanced class and something of a
tour de force (in my experience anyway). Thalo (pthalo) blue is certainly
in my experience, easy, trouble free, VERY strong (hence cheap to use)
pigment for tricolor (the closest I know to process blue) tho cyanotype is
apparently good, maybe better, I dunno I haven't used it.


(Now I'm really supposed to be doing something else. Happy Memorial Day.)

Received on Sun May 29 15:34:07 2005

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