Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Cobalt Violet - Pigment Violet 14 (PV14)

This is another interesting pigment  labelled by Bruce McEvoy of Handprint as a `Top Forty' pigment. Not everyone agrees, Michael Wilcox calls it `gummy and weak'. I think I know what he means but it does have some attraction for the watercolour artist, although it is not offered by all the majors, nor any of the cheaper makes. On the downside as a Cobalt pigment it is both expensive and toxic, something that will put many off.

Top row from left to right.Graham, Lukas and Art Spectrum. Winsor & Newton is in the middle. The bottom two are different pigments for comparison purposes. In the bottom swatches Number 1 is Art Spectrum, 2 Graham, 3 W & N Potters PInk PR233, 4 W & N Permanent Mauve PV16. 

The above swatches have been supplied by John Softly who has tried several different Cobalt Violets. I myself have three, the Rowney Cobalt Magenta, Winsor & Newton Cobalt Violet and the Lukas version. The latter two, both in pan form, I have yet to use. The Rowney is a good colour but I have some reservations about it, which I have written about previously.

Bruce describes Cobalt Violet as follows:

 "...a very lightfast, semitransparent, nonstaining, moderately dark valued, moderately dull violet to red-violet pigment...."

You can see the variation in shades with some inclining to `bluish' and others `reddish'. It also granulates beautifully in most paints. You don't see this pigment featuring in many artists palettes, although John tells me it is a staple of David Curtis and also Robert Brindley. At my last two Charles Reid workshops I noticed it on his palette (for the first time), almost certainly the Winsor & Newton version. In his most recent  portrait DVD it features on the clothing of the figure painting of the man. You need to make a decision as to whether you prefer the more violet shades or those inclining to reddish.

In the Handprint listings, not 100% up to date, there are 9 manufacturers offering this paint who, apart from Rowney, call it either Cobalt Violet or Cobalt Violet Deep. Once again I stress go only by pigments numbers as there are some other paints calling themselves Cobalt Violet or Cobalt Violet Deep that aren't PV14 or have another pigment added.  

Finally I quote Bruce McvEcvoy again who concludes by saying:

" ...genuine, high quality Cobalt Violet is a spectacular paint in broad wash applications - morning skies and magnificent florals - and evocative in flesh tone shadows. The `red' shades offered by Rowney, Bloxx and Winsor & Newton are effective as the pink component in Caucasian flesh tones..." 

Added 26/04/13: from John Softly ( I asked John for his conclusions):

"After playing with PV14 for a couple of months  I can't say that I have found a clear winner. The two warms - Art Spectrum and W & N are very similar but I am inclined to go for the Art Spectrum as my local art shop periodically discounts the whole range of 10ml AS watercolours and retails them for £4.66 regardless of series.
 The two cools -Graham and Lukas - are, yet again, similar in hue but both have problems relating to consistency. The Graham I find far too liquid which is no problem in the studio but will run out of its well unless the palette is kept perfectly horizontal. It could be the result of the semi-tropical climate I live in but the paint in the palette is still too liquid after a month (as is the Cobalt Green and Cerulean Blue I purchased at the same time). Many people praise the Graham range and have no problem with the liquidity of the honey so I assume the climate is to blame. The relatively new Sennelier range also has honey as an integral part of the mix but it does solidify to a paste like consistency on the palette. On the other hand the Lukas has the opposite problem and the paint is too stiff and does not flow from the tube easily. The Winsor & Newton Permanent Mauve (PV16) suffers the same problem - so much so that, at one time, it was only available in cake form. Once in the palette and activated with water the Lukas PV14 does behave perfectly and my only concern is that the tube will dry out over time and become solid. I have both warm and cool versions of PV14 on my palette and, at times, use the the two PV14s and Raw Sienna as my triad. Mostly however my triad consist of the  warm version of Cobalt Violet, Cobalt Blue and Raw Sienna. Incidentally when mixing a grey with Cobalt Blue and Raw Sienna (or similar) any green cast can be removed with the addition of warm PV14"

We now come to the question of price and in the UK there are considerable variations. Holbein at £18.80p for a 15 ml tube are the dearest, with Maimeri £14.60 (15ml) and Old Holland £16.35 for 18ml.. You can currently buy the Winsor & Newton 14 ml version, on promotion at both Great Art and Jacksons, for just over £10 - a great buy. Daler Rowney (Cobalt Magenta) is  just over £9 (15ml) and Lukas  (Great Art) £10.35p for 24ml .If you only use a colour occasionally then it might be wiser (and cheaper) to buy the 5ml size which most (not Lukas) offer.  The Rembrandt 5ml is only £3.00 from Jacksons - very cheap. A minefield of prices that you need to navigate carefully if you are not to end up paying more than necessary. Naturally if you must have a particular make then you pay the price.

 I shall try Cobalt Violet in the three makes I have and certainly give it a try in portraits - possibly skies and florals.. At some future date I'll report on the results.


Yvonne Harry said...

Thanks Peter. Very informative.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Yvonne.

Oscar Solis said...

As I was reading this post, informative as always, a thought occurred to me: How many tubes of paint do you have? I've always imagined that you probably have a great collection.

What do you do with the paints that don't work out? Do you toss them out (I do, threw out a whole load of Yasutomo Chinese Watercolors, non-toxic. When I switch paint brands, I really switch paint brands).

Anyways, good post.

Ray Maclachlan said...

Your colour tests are very interesting, as usual. I noted that CR did not refer to the CoV in the DVD you mention. Be interesting to see if it is on his palette when he visits the UK next month.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for comments Oscar. How many do I have? 60+ (at least!) According to the chief chemist at Daler Rowney they last a good ten years - some say longer. Those with white in them (Naples yellows etc) tend to go very hard though.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for comments Ray. Charles Reid started using some Winsor & Newton pans after he had problems with tube paints liquefying on his travels. He places the half pans side by side in his Craig Young palette. I noticed the Cobalt Violet at Burford and again at Crantock. He's never mentioned it though. he does tend to have a slightly different pallete each year.