Ever wondered how watercolour paints are created? Ever pondered the history of pigmentation? The chemist and part time painter, Paul Lamoureux, is Winsor & Newton and Liquitex’s Innovation and Development Manager, and is passionate about chemistry as he is art. As part of Cass Art’s programme of Free Thinking talks, Paul revealed all about the history and future of watercolours, with a focus on Winsor & Newton art materials.
Founded in 1832, Winsor & Newton have been creating art products for 182 years thanks to chemist, Williams Winsor (1804-1865) and artist Henry Newton (1805-1882). Their logo, the griffin, symbolises the fusion of both art and science as one. They were the first to create the moist watercolour (1835), the first durable white watercolour (Chinese White) and the first to pioneer the portable tube for both paints and watercolours. If it weren’t for the invention of the tube, we would be buying our paint wrapped in pigs’ bladders, as they were originally packaged by Winsor & Netwon!
So what are watercolours made from?
“Pigment, a good binder such as Gum Arabic and glycerin”, Paul begins to explain.
Pigments, whether natural or synthetic, are key to a perfect palette and have been used from early prehistoric cavemen around 40,000 years ago up until today. Some early pigments are also created accidentally, some from bizarre sources.
Take Indian Yellow pigment for example. A rich earthy, orangey yellow. Paul tells us how it's created. “Dessicated cow urine!” The colour in the urine is produced from feeding mango leaves to the cows.
Another pigment, Caput Mortuum, sometimes known as ‘cardinal purple’ is iron oxide based, but the pigment is also referred to as ‘mummy powder’. Why I hear you ask? Because it was created by grinding the bones of mummified corpses from Egypt. One mummy equals the equivalent volume of pigment to last an artist 20 years! Thankfully this process of obtaining Caput Mortuum was outlawed in 1908, but Paul revealed that today, a gruelling 400 hours goes into product testing new pigment permanence.
New innovation in watercolour
Paul announced that Winsor & Newton have brought out a range of Watercolour marker pens, sticks and mediums. Finally the watercolour is being liberated into a handheld, no nonsense pen and into a unique graphite stick like format too. And the watercolour markers aren’t like felt tips either. With special brush nibs, finer, linear techniques can be applied and can easily be mixed or used alongside the tubes. The watercolour sticks have also been made to a special secret concoction that allows you to sketch first onto paper before applying water to blend.
Thankfully all the watercolour sticks match the pigments of all 48 of Winsor & Newton tubes and pans, so all watercolour products can be interchangeable.
The new mediums on offer allow more unusual effects to be incorporated into your artwork, such as granulated, textured and even iridescent watercolour effects. Paul also revealed that Winsor & Netwon have cherry picked several new pigment colours inspired by other industries to create a limited edition range of pigments that cannot be found in any other art industry line.
So there we have it. Watercolours may have been around for a few odd hundred years but it is the work of innovative developers like Paul that are helping shape, change and pioneer new and exciting ways to appreciatively use colour and mediums for the art of the future.
By Sophie Filipiuk, Student Ambassador
Check out the new Winsor & Newton Watercolour Markers and Professional Watercolour Sticks now available for purchase.
Read our How To on the new products and Watercolour Revolution here.
Watch our Free Thinking highlights in a video here.