Alizarin and Viridian are two ancient aristocrats in the colour palette; both are cool colours that complement one another. Even their names make them sound like an old married couple – they are old fashioned, highly pigmented and over-the-top in any palette. To be effective they need to be used as glazes or neutralized by one another.
They are two eccentric colours which I cannot live without!
The painting Still Life on a fine day, inspired by Alizarin and Viridian has been done with their off-spring – Permanent Rose and a mix of teal / sap green / touch of Phthalo green. (Phthalo rhymes with Halo and is pronounced ‘Thalo’. It comes from Phthalocyanine.)
INFORMATION: Student colours do not have the amount or quality of pigment that the Artists’ colours have, so they will never be able to produce the richness of hue.
Student Alizarin is sometimes called ‘Alizarin Hue’ which means it is an approximation of Alizarin. Sometimes the so-called ‘hue colours’ are quite good on their own, but not so good when it comes to mixing other colours; e.g. it is very difficult to mix a good orange with a student red and yellow. It’s better to just buy Student orange!
I would use Alizarin and Phthalo Green as mixers or as glazes (which is a different way of mixing colours). I would never paint with neat A&V – well, maybe touches of Alizarin, but Phthalo Green on its own is really harsh.
WARNING: These colours have a pigmentation with a beetroot type of zeal and it permeates everywhere, staining your fingers and the tablecloth!!
In fact I don’t use True Alizarin because it fades or True Viridian because it is so expensive. Instead, I use W&N Permanent Alizarin and W&N Winsor Green (Phthalo Green). If you mix them, as with A&V they give a rich black, or they darken one another.
I often mix these two to tone them down or add white to make neutral greys.
Add a little Viridian to Alizarin and you have wonderful blackberries of a far richer colour than black will ever give. Viridian with just a touch of Alizarin produces beautiful deep greens for those dark blackish shadows in a landscape.
In the above sequence I have shown what happens when white is added and you get a whole range of beautiful subtle degraded colours and tinted greys. (Degraded means reduced in hue)
Still life on a fine day: Stages 1 and 2
- After glueing collage onto gesso using PVA glue…
The main colours I used here were:
- A magenta acrylic wash over the white gesso and the collage
- W&N Permanent Rose oil paint (on other panels, not these four)
- Michael Harding Cobalt Teal mixed with varying amounts of
W&N Sap Green or W&N Phthalo Green over the magenta wash.
- Touches of W&N French Ultramarine in the mixtures.
- Titanium White.
I never used Alizarin here at all as I wanted a bright magenta result and Alizarin tends more to maroon.
A little genealogy
(for colour obsessives like me)
Viridian PG18 is a beautiful transparent green which has a low tinting strength and is expensive. It was discovered in 1859 and has been available since 1900. It is an artificial mineral pigment.
It is hard to match and often the “brasher’ substitute Phthalo Green is used. Phthalocyanine Green PG7 is a development from Phthalo Blue which was first made in about 1930. (Phthalo rhymes with Halo and is pronounced ‘Thalo’. It comes from Phthalocyanine.)
Alizarin Crimson PR83 came from the madder root pigment and was used in antiquity as a dye. A synthetic pigment equivalent was developed in 1868, but Alizarin Crimson, whether organic or synthetic is transient and fades. If mixed with lime (e.g. used in frescoes) or with white, Alizarin fares even worse. It is a beautiful but impermanent transparent red. (And naughty Mr JMW Turner ignored the colourmen’s advice and his paintings now have nothing of their original brightness!) In 1958 Alizarin was largely replaced by more light-resistant quinacridone pigments, using a variety of different recipes with slightly different results.
It has a number of names as you’ll see further along, one of which is Alizarin Crimson Permanent
THE RECIPE OF COLOURS
I am trying to demystify the make-up of colours so that you will know what you are paying for and what each colour is made of. I’ll skim over the chemistry details that don’t concern me as an artist.
Student Colours often all cost the same in any one brand and seldom give pigment information.
This is a bit like reading food labels. It is always on W&N tubes, but in some colours, you may have to dig deeper.
FRONT of label
Name of colour: This is the manufacturers’ colour’s name, which varies from one manufacturer to another, even if the pigment is the same.
Price: Series 1 is cheapest, series 5 is the most expensive (W&N). This relates to the cost of the pigment not the quality or permanence.
Permanence: (UK Testing)AA for permanent to C for transient
BACK of label
ASTM (American standard of lightfastness) 1 & 11 for permanent, V for fugitive
Product code: This is the manufacturers product number
Colour Index: This is a universal system of the pigment used e.g. PR177 (Pigment Red 177)
Vehicle: The sort of oil used e.g. Linseed or Safflower etc.
Transparency: T for transparent to O for opaque
Colours are transparent, semi-transparent or or opaque.
Alizarin and Viridian are both transparent colours
AP is a non-toxic seal and is safe for children and adults.
CL means potentially hazardous.
Names of colours by different manufacturers are not consistent with the pigments used: e.g. ‘Permanent Alizarin Crimson’ made by different manufacturers can be any combination of different pigments.
The Colour Index, is standardized among colourmen, so you will know what you are really buying. It is on the back of the W&N label and will appear on all Artist’s colours.
Alizarin Crimson is PR-83 (Pigment-Red 83), B permanence rating
Viridian is PG-18 (Pigment-Green 18) AA rating
PERMANENT ALIZARIN CRIMSON (transparent) is a modern substitute because True Alizarin fades. Here are three versions:
W&N: Colour Index: PR 177 Lightfastness: A, Series 4: £21.65,
Sennelier: Colour Index: PR209, PR179, PR202 Lightfastness: A,
Series 3: £8.90,
Gamblin: PR177, PG36 Lightfastness A, Series 3: £16.50 Colour Index:
Various pigments used to make Permanent Alizarin Crimson in W&N, Sennelier & Gamblin
PR 177 Aminoanthraquinone
PR209 Quinacridone Red
PR179 Perylene Red
PR202 Quinacridone Crimson
PG36 Phthalocyanine Green YS.
HOW IT WORKS FOR YOU
Unravelling W&N Permanent Rose (PV19)
Alizarin’s ‘friend’: W&N Permanent Rose – PV19 – Pigment Violet 19.
Here are the different names and prices given to the colours using only PV19 and no other pigments:
As with every other product, if you like Pigment Violet 19, buy different brands until you find the perfect one for you!
The Color of Art Site Map – Pigments, Paints and Formulas
Jacksons – current prices and manufacturers information from this site.
http://www.winsornewton.com/ Details about W&N pigment.
Seymour, Pip: The Artist’s Handbook L Press 2007 ISBN 978-0-95555294-0-5
The comparison between artist and student colours comes from this book.
It is considered one of the best books on materials used in paint and Pip Seymour also manufactures oil paints of a very high calibre..