Sunday, 8 February 2015

Daniel Smith & Indian Yellow

Recently one of my painting friends and senior member of Avon Valley Artists - Yvonne Harry - has been engaged in an exchange of e-mails with Daniel Smith over the DS version of Indian Yellow. Essentially Yvonnes complaint was that the colour was simply not recognisable as Indian Yellow as understood by artists.

To give a little background it was originally, so we are told, produced in India in a revolting manner, cows being fed a particular type of leaf to produce a highly pigmented yellow cow dung from which the paint was extracted.  I have since read that this story is questionable but has been repeated time and again. As in other cases where the natural pigment became unavailable, or was ruled out on various other grounds, the paint manufacturers have produced alternatives under the same name. This then becomes complicated when there is no unanimity on what pigments to use. With regard to `Indian Yellow' the most popular pigment seems to have been PY153, although  Winsor & Newton called its PY153 paint `New Gamboge'.




The above swatches are from Yvonne and illustrate what she means about the colour being `off key' for want of a better description. I don't have the DS version being very happy with the much cheaper Daler Rowney version, which is PY153 until they run out. I have managed to buy a number of tubes so they should last a while!

Indian Yellow, as sold by all other makers is on the orange side of yellow - a deep yellow in other words - whereas the DS version  seems - to my eyes from the `Try -it' colour sheet - more inclined to a muddy orange. It is PY108 a different pigment to other makers. I realise that personal preference is a factor here and other views may differ.

The plot thickens when another of the AVA senior artists, Jan Weeks, reported that her latest tube of `Moonglow' was a different shade to the previous one. Jan is a very experienced and talented artist so she cannot be easily dismissed.


Different shades? What do you think?

`Moonglow' is a mixed pigment paint PG18/ PB29/PR177. A green, blue and red combination. Despite being a three pigment mix it has become  a favourite of many.

Yvonne was initially very annoyed at the response from Daniel Smith, which was rather patronising, but she is a determined lady and after further correspondence that changed.  In fact she has now received three 15ml tubes, Serpentine Green, Bordeaux and Carbazole Violet FOC as a peace offering and all is now well, although her opinion of Indian Yellow remains. She gave me a `sqeeze' of all these colours and they are lovely.

I think I should emphasize this isn't a general criticism of Daniel Smith paints. There is universal agreement they are excellent and handle beautifully, if somewhat expensive in Europe. The range is huge and there are so many tempting colours that are hard to resist, the inclination is to buy colours you don't really need. I've done it but then face the problem of how to use them. Artists palettes vary in size but  I would think the majority are in the 12 - 24 range. Daniel Smith produce well over 200 colours and do you really need up to 20 reds, 20 yellows etc? All it does is confuse the issue of what to buy. I think the Primateks are a different matter and would refer to the piece Bruce McEvoy of Handprint wrote about them some time ago. 

I do have one issue with Daniel Smith though. Sometime ago I read they had developed a method of making multi pigment paints behave as though they were a single pigment. This has implications when mixing with other colours.This applied to the Cadmiums where a `hue' equivalent was offered. I e-mailed them and enquired whether they did the same thing with other mixed pigment paints. I received no reply and a second e-mail also went unanswered.

12 comments:

Yvonne Harry said...

Thanks for that, Peter. You have got the summary spot on. I am, however, waiting for a reply from the chemist at Daniel Smith, as they asked me to return the tube for testing. Will I get any feedback? Will keep you informed.

Ray Maclachlan said...

Very interesting article. Thank you Peter. I find the printing on the new silver W&N tubes very hard to see. Small print and old age - a bad combination.

Galina said...

I am slightly confused. I have Daniel Smith New Gamboge, which is indeed PY153. I got some colour swatches I can take pictures of and send you. It does look a bit more like your old Indian Yellow from the pictures at least.

I always wonder how updated handprint is these days -- it claims anyway that only Daniel Smith and Schmincke use PY108 and he's unhappy with the Schmincke one.

If you want to see more strange stuff, compare sometimes DS Indanthrone Blue and WN Indanthrene Blue which are both PB60, but are quite different colours.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Ray. I agree you need a magnifying glass to see the small - very small -print. I'm just a little concerned that as Handprint is no longer hounding the manufacturers they'll slip back into their bad old ways. Already there are known examples of incorrect pigment information on the tubes of some makes. Only a few at the moment but.....

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Galina. That's the problem. With PY 153 discontinued the makers will run out and have to find substitutes where this pigment features, mainly called New Gamboge or Indian Yellow.

Sadly Handprint is outdated but still contains much valuable information. It isn't unusual for different makes, using the same pigment, to differ in colour shade. I have the Daniel Smith `Try -it' sheets so can check the colours.The problem is they have so many not greatly dissimilar colours.

Mick Carney said...

The dog with a bone strikes again. Thanks for the investigation/ information Peter.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Mick.

Claire said...

Interesting post. I have just received a tube of DS new gamboge and it is now made with a mix of 2 pigments and to me it looks more like Indian yellow by WN. I'm definitely going to stop buying paints now! It's just too tempting though.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Claire for comments. I imagine we'll all be tempted again at some time!

peter gray said...
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mlaiuppa said...

I attended a presentation by the president of Daniel Smith and he did explain that the three pigment mix is manufactured so that it does behave differently than if you simply took those three colors and mixed them yourself. If I recall correctly he said the pigments were combined first and then the binder was put around them or something like that. I have a handout with illustrations but it's a bit too up the science class level for me. I think it has something to do with the particle size and dispersion milling. He also explained how they achieve granulation.

Daniel Smith has a pamphlet called The Daniel Smith Story - How We Make Paint. You might be able to write them and get a copy. We got them at the workshop.

John Cogley, the owner of Daniel Smith is more of a chemist than an artist so he was a great resource to explain pigments and how they become paint.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for comments Mia. I've gone off Daniel Smith (so have several pf my painting partners). The reason is the high cost in the UK with many colours available cheaper from competitors. I know they are good but far from perfect. Many colours are no better than cheaper alternatives.
My other gripe is I contacted them a while back over the claims they made regarding their Cadmium alternatives. I received no reply either to that or a repeat request.