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Perfect Pencils for the Particular Person

2B or not 2B, that is the question.

Indeed, it truly is the question when stood in the menagerie of pencils that is the downstairs rabbit warren of Green and Stone. In this place a cornucopia of pencils awaits you, including everything from the humble school pencil to the most suave, dark, and mysteriously named Pierre Noire.

First and foremost in the collection are the graphite pencils whose sheer variety of shapes, sizes and qualities will surprise those who think of pencils as merely being striped like a wasp and stuffed sadly in a neglected and shadowed drawer.

Particularly prized in the collection are the Caran d’Ache Grafwood pencils which have both style and substance. On their style, the silvery shafts are coloured in accordance with the graphite grade and have a hexagonal shaft to suit your grip, thus completing a sartorial draughtsman’s look (very important!). On their substance, the graphite is of the highest quality and is delectably soft and smooth, even in the hardest 4H grade. Also, in the Caran d’Ache range are the Grafcubes which are similarly soft solid cuboids of graphite perfect for expressive and gestural mark making.

From Derwent, there are the water-soluble graphite pencils which are ideal for making light sketches before using watercolours, whereby the underlying sketch will disappear when wett. Interestingly, if you are one who minds where your pencils are made, Derwent are the last remaining pencil factory in Britain. Based in the Lake District where graphite was first discovered in the mid-1500s they now make 14 million pencils a year using Californian cedar wood, pigments from across Europe, and China clay from Cornwall.

On the gradation of pencils, ‘B’ means black, and ‘H’ means hard, so 9B is very soft and black, HB is in the goldilocks zone, whilst 4H is very hard and pale. The gradation of pencils is made by cooking varying amounts of pure powdered graphite with clay. The purer the graphite content, the softer and blacker it is, and the more clay there is the harder and paler it is.

In the graphite collection there are also the excellent Faber Castell 9000’s, Koh-i-Noor’s Chunky pencils, Cretacolour tubs of graphite powder, and much, much more!

Away from the graphite pencils there are many shades of sanguine and fleshy tones in Derwent and Conté perfect for classical drawing techniques and drawing on toned papers. New to the collection are the Conté Pierre Noire’s which feature soft leads of dense, velvety matt black ideal for both lively and precise drawing. Also, in the Conté range are the Charcoal pencils which do not dirty your hands, provide a more accurate charcoal line and blend very well with their iron red and sepia cousins.

In the realm of coloured pencils there are traditional wax and oil-based pencils, watercolour pencils, and pastel pencils. Of the traditional coloured pencils there are the wonderful little Ferby’s which are delightfully chunky and vibrant, whilst at the top of the range there are the Caran d’Ache Luminance’s which are the finest of the fine! Whilst expensive they are worth every penny. They are smooth and can be easily blended with either burnishing, layering, or application of solvent. Most of all though, they remind you that coloured pencils are not always like the terrible, weak ones you had at school which frustrated more than they delighted. Instead, they are extraordinarily vivid and punchy, enough so that they can be mistaken for a painting. In addition, they are Grade I or II light fast, (important for any professional artist!). In a different corner of the shop there are the Carbothello’s which are pastel pencils. So, similarly to the charcoal pencils they do not mess your hands and provide a more accurate and steady pastel line.

Of the watercolour pencils there are the Faber Castell Albrect Durer’s which are also lightfast and strongly pigmented and can be used for both drawing and painting. Eagerly sought after by a select enlightened few the Stabilo Woody pencils have a naïve child-like look which belies their complexity. Indeed, these XXL pencils can be used as a pencil, a crayon, and a watercolour, and can make images so intensely vivid you will feel as though rainbows are falling out of your eyes. Truly, for only £1.45 you can experience pure psychedelia! Last, but not least there are the new Derwent Inktense pencils and blocks which are unique in that when wet they become ink, and once dry the colour is fixed and can be used on fabrics, including silk and cotton. Watch out Vivienne Westwood!

Hopefully, my point is a sharp and clear as that of my Faber Castell 9000 – there are a lot of pencils at Green and Stone! In truth, I have barely scratched the surface, there are many, many more to use (the chinagraph pencils which can write on all non-porous surfaces – what excitement awaits!).   

However, if the idea of a pencil tires you out, you can be truly 18th century and use a port crayon instead. Et voila! You will be transported to an Enlightenment tea party.

By Ned Elliott

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Black Velvet – A Look at Black Pigments

Yummy, silky soft and truly delicious – it can only be Guinness! One of the universe’s greatest gifts, a distillation of flavour and pure human goodwill. Such an enrapturing drink deserves to be painted. But which black should one use to capture the deep velvet cream of this comforting stout – ivory black, lamp black, mars black or vine black? Each type of paint has its own characteristics and story to tell, so which one, if only one, is right for your wee pint? But before we take on this aesthetic challenge we should firmly note that we are painting Guinness, not Guinness Extra Cold – indeed, it would be grotesquely embarrassing if after all your hard work and dedication someone stands in front of your painting and says, ‘My, oh my, what an excellent painting of Guinness Extra Cold!’

Most black pigments are obtained by burning various animal and plant materials. These blacks are all carbon blacks, traditionally produced from charring organic materials like wood. There are many types, each reflecting a traditional method for producing a particular carbon black pigment, whether vine black or the uncommon fruit stone black. Basically, anything you can burn!

The most common of the black pigments you find are ivory, lamp, vine and mars black. The material specifically called carbon black is the most intense in colour and tinctorial power. Black pigment is possibly the oldest of all pigments, alongside the ochres, its use most likely being prompted by the invention of the Zippo lighter back in the Stone Age.

Ivory black is the first contender. The pigment was previously made by killing poor little hippos and elephants and then stealing their ivory teeth and tusks. This practice is now (mostly) frowned upon and expensive so no longer occurs. Nowadays ivory black is simply the misleading name for bone black. This black is the most widely used black; used by practically all artists, whether in oil, watercolour, ink, pure pigment – whatever! It is undoubtedly the all-round black.

The warm brown and grey undertones of ivory black would be useful for capturing the comfort instilled by Guinness, particularly when sat in a cosy pub and doubly enhanced by the addition of a packet of Scampi Fries. However, if using this in oils one should note it is one of the worst pigments to use full strength, or nearly full strength as a film of any other pigment on top is extremely likely to crack as the ivory black moves about. However, instead of being a blob-brush painter you can delicately thin it to a glaze – otherwise it is excellent for making initial wash-like sketches. Nonetheless, away from this totally arbitrary study of a pint of Guinness and the quite conservative teachings of my educational master (Pip Seymour) all the great masters from Mr Caveman, Rembrandt, Picasso and Manet used ivory black with great effect and show that the oft-quoted teaching that black kills a painting is not true (see ‘Berthe Morisot with a Bouquet of Violets’!

In contrast to the warmth of ivory black there is lamp black which is an equally ancient pigment but with a much colder, blue hue. Long ago it was produced by collecting soot from oil lamps. Now it is made from partially combusted mineral and vegetable oil, with the oily residue removed during the manufacturing process. It is an intense colour with great tinctorial strength and a lovely velvety depth. However, it is very transparent and like ivory black in oil it should (technically not artistically) only be used in thin layers because at full strength it will wrinkle and take forever to dry. HOWEVER! As we are painting Guinness, not Guinness Extra Cold, it is wholly inappropriate to consider it any further.

In addition to ivory and lamp black there is the thoroughly trustworthy and modern mars black which was invented in America back when TV didn’t exist and everyone wore hats. The purpose of its invention was to create a black more suitable for watercolour. The process used natural gas as the raw material and the resultant black deposits from burning were of a finer grain than the other blacks, meaning it could spread further in watercolour. Additionally, it is a stable pigment available in all media. If you like your Guinness really warm, then Mars black is for you as it is much warmer than ivory black, which should be perhaps be said as having a cool warmth (does that make sense?) Like ivory and lamp black it has good tinctorial power. However, it is not as saturated in colour as ivory, and some say it is less subtle than other blacks when mixing with other transparent colours.

Lastly, there is vine black which is made from desiccated grape vines. It is a cool, grey black somewhat like lamp black but less deep – shallow you might even say. It does not have the tinctorial strength of the other blacks, but this can be an advantage for the subtle painter, just as zinc white is weaker than titanium white. Yes, there is strength in weakness!

If you have read this blog with a pint of Guinness in your hand you will have seen that Guinness isn’t black at all, more a rainbow of brown, and you will have also realised how stupid and clunky this ridiculous piece has been. However, if you, like me, love Guinness, you could simply ignore all of this and paint Guinness pink, or not even paint it at all, maybe instead you could place a pile of sand, a sheaf of barley, a blob of malt extract and a drip of water onto a table as a deconstructed art piece for this delectable pint.

So, what have we learnt? Ivory black (bone black) is a warm black with brown and grey undertones, it is not vegetarian, it is available in most materials. Lamp black is a cold blue black, it is vegetarian, and it is deep and velvety (like the Black Velvet cocktail – a concoction of Guinness and champagne – what could be better!) Mars black is the new kid on the block with great opacity, warmth and all-round stability and popularity (see acrylics section of shop!). Lastly, there is meek old vine black, a strange wee pigment with a shy demeanour but a subtlety that could perhaps floor the others.

Thank you.

By Ned Elliott

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Sunshine and… Toned Paper!

With the days getting longer but somehow the month feeling gloomier it is only natural to pine for summer, both past and future, and the warm joy it brings. Undoubtedly, there is no greater pleasure than jumping into a tree-lined river, throwing yourself under its sun-dappled waters, then lying on the tickling glistening grass and basking in the sun whilst water steams off your pale-turning-brown body. Away from the river another highlight of my England-bound months of smiles was the Charmed Lives in Greece exhibition held at the British Museum. Alongside boys lying in fields of asphodels, slowly drifting into the arms of Morpheus, were a selection of small portraits of Cretan and Greek men, women, and children. Here John Craxton, a British artist who for much of his life exiled himself to Greece (tough life!), not only made me jealous of his Mediterranean gallivants but he also opened my eyes to the world of toned paper! Truly exciting stuff!

Before my eyes were opened by Craxton I lived as an ignoramus blindly wandering around Green and Stone thinking the only paper for me came white, phosphorescent and bright, and that toned paper was exclusive to pastel painters. But no, such paper is open to all – whether you use charcoal, pencil, coloured pencil, conté or pen and ink!

Toned paper comes in all sorts of colours ranging from light creams, bold greens and rich reds. Whilst Craxton enjoyed all sorts of colours of toned paper in the Renaissance we find that light browns and greys were most popular with the likes of Michelangelo and da Vinci. What all these artists understood, whether 15th century, or 20th century, was that toned paper can greatly enhance a drawing.

Having such a choice of delectable colours to draw on allows you to set the mood of your drawing more easily. Whilst Craxton often chose warm tones of yellow and orange he equally favoured cooler ones of grey and blue. Having the constant unifying mid-tone also allows one to darken and lighten their drawings more easily. Indeed, this sort of highlighting which can be done in white charcoal, chalk, white ink, or dry-ish gouache can be more difficult to achieve when drawing on white paper and to some extent allows a more realistic bodied drawing, as when in nature do you ever really see stark white in nature? Equally, coloured paper can lean one further towards abstraction. The constant mid-tone can also grant you wicked speed as the paper does much of the shading work for you, making it perfect for travelling and quick sketch making. Craxton’s ‘Tasia’, a portrait of a Cretan lady drawn in conté, is a beautiful example of the dynamism of toned paper. The paper highlights her warmth, spiralling hair and extraordinarily captured features. No doubt Craxton could have achieved this otherwise, but the paper helps! Finally, using toned paper encourages unusual colour combinations which can prompt all sorts of effects, moods, and experiences.

The only things that will upset toned ‘pastel paper’ is the wet, whether watercolour or acrylic, it will squirm wildly and lose all dignity and be a terrible waste. However, relatively dry gouache and the delicate wetness of pen and ink is perfect. Fortunately, watercolour does come in its own range of hues comparable to those mentioned here.

So next time you think about paper, don’t only think of it as white, at Green and Stone in the ‘pastel paper’ stand it comes in forty different colours (not counting all the other types of card and paper) ready to be made into whatever sort of drawing you like.

By Ned Elliott

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Recipe of the Week : Mantegna’s ‘Agony in the Garden’

 

New year, new you!

Over Christmas we become flabby, not only physically, but also mentally. By this I mean we can slip artistically and lose aesthetic rigour as we practice the sin of gluttony and let ham seep from our pores. Sadly, there is no easy solution, but with effort one can alleviate their sin – not by dieting, joining the wagon, or sweating at the gym – no, the only way is to don your smock and recreate a fifteenth century masterpiece.

To help you I suggest copying Mantegna’s Agony in the Garden (currently on show at the National Gallery). I have already done so and now feel like twice the man I was in 2018.

This painting exquisitely depicts Judas’s betrayal and the arrest of Christ before going to the cross. In it we see Christ receive the Instruments of the Passion whilst his disciples snooze unaware of the encroaching army of soldiers snaking out of an imagined Jerusalem. Rendered in tempera it has a brilliant luminosity and crispness which is not replicated in the above photo. With the addition of a sweet trio of rabbits nibbling away at the trodden-grass Mantegna makes even the most hardened atheist hearts tingle with the poetry of the Lord!

Here then follows a guide to redemption.

Ingredients:

A rigid wooden panel

Gesso

Egg tempera

Bole

Gold Leaf

A competitive brother-in-law (called Bellini)

Attention to detail

Talent

Start by choosing your wooden panel. If you wish to be truly authentic visit your local madman-in-the-forest and exchange a tuppence for some poplar wood chopped in the autumn. Make sure it is well seasoned and then cut to size (62.9 x 80cm!). Otherwise compressed fibreboard or seasoned panels of birch framed on pine (which we sell in the shop) are suitable.

Prepare your panel by dusting it with a lint-free cloth and degrease it with a delicate wipe of methylated-spirits. Sit the wood happily on some makeshift feet and allow it to thoroughly dry.

Next prepare a delicious vat of gesso.

Again, if you wish to be truly authentic you must make two stops. First, either go to your local pet shop and buy a rabbit or commit a crime and set an illegal snare in the countryside. After you have done this grace your nearby gypsum mine and buy a kilo or two of the powdered rock. If you can’t get a rabbit you may be truly Renaissance and use clippings of goatskin vellum soaked in water for 24 hours.

To spare yourself the horror of the first stage and the lung damage of the second simply go into the downstairs of our shop and buy yourself a bag of rabbit-skin glue and a bag of gypsum, or a tub of whiting.

To make your gesso mix the two ingredients together in a way better explained in Robert Massey’s Formulas for Painters or Pip Seymour’s The Artist’s Handbook.

Now apply a ‘grip coat’ of mostly glue and a smidge of gypsum powder followed by between 4-10 coats of silky smooth and creamy white gesso. You’ll know if your glue is good if it dries to a clear pale straw colour. If it is bad it will dry dark brown and a cloud of shame will rest above you for the rest of your day.

If you don’t want to do any of this you can again skip the process and exchange some sweet dollar for ‘Gessobord’ pre-gessoed panels! Again, available downstairs!

With your panel now ready and gessoed you may begin to think about paint.

To remake this masterpiece, you must use egg tempera which in this modern-age you can buy in tubes! Or you may dedicate yourself to the handmade process more comprehensively and lengthily described in the previously mentioned books. But essentially, raise yourself a hen, collect its eggs, remove the whites, cut open the egg sac, remove the yolk, wet your pigments, mix the two together, and grind, grind, grind with a muller. Et voila!

With the technicalities over you must begin painting as your handmade egg tempera will go smelly after two days. Make sure to paint delicately and lightly with a fine brush otherwise your painting will crack to bits. Once you have added the finishing touches – the swirling silvery hair, the hundreds of tiny pebbles, the glint of the little rabbits’ eyes – the truly final touch can be added – the golden horse!

Yes, if you look closely, atop Trajan’s column (beautifully rendered in plaster at the V&A) sits a golden horse and rider. Of real gold! Not gold paint, no real gold! So that it shines like the sun! What grace!

To do this apply a little bole and delicately apply with your gilders tip the finest gold leaf in the land (available at little ole Green ‘n’ Stone!). Ta da!

If all goes well and you have followed my instructions closely you should end up with a painting which will make your heart glow with the radiance of God and reinvigorate your mind with the sharpness lost over the Christmas period. To 2019, a year for unparalleled artistic endeavour! Using supplies only from Green and Stone!

By Ned Elliott

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Michelle Pearson Cooper

Between 26th October 2018 and 24th January 2019 a raffle is being held at Green and Stone for Michelle Pearson Cooper’s exquisite charcoal drawing ‘Cheetah’.

This piece, measuring 4ft x 5ft and mounted in a handmade frame from Green and Stone, is available to win through purchase of a raffle ticket. Each ticket costs £25 and 50% of the money raised will go to the Artist Benevolent Fund.

To buy a ticket you can either purchase a ticket in person at the shop, or over the phone, or via email.

The winner will be announced on the 24th January 2019.

Good luck!

Michelle Pearson Cooper studied art on a rarely awarded Art Scholarship at Millfield and in Florence under Signorina Simi who lists Annigoni as one of her pupils. Michelle has held 17 solo exhibitions in London, Palm Beach, Marrakech and Dubai, and collectors of her work include HRH The King of Bahrain, Bruce Oldfield, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, Mahdi Al Tajir and Tom Stoppard. Inspired by primeval landscapes and their wild creatures, on travels to India, Africa, Oman and the UAE, Michelle has given substance to her ideas born in the silence of the desert and the solitude of the wilderness. She chooses subjects that are powerful and challenging but always her affinity with them is paramount. Her honest approach and distinctive draftmanship is apparent in each faithfully executed drawing, achieving greater perception into their individual characteristics.

Our phone number is 02073520837 and our email is sales@greenandstone.com

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The Secrets of Sepia

Long ago, on a blustery Mediterranean shore, an ancient Roman man slipped and slid across a crumple of rocks in search of booty. After some time, the sodden man found his treasure in a gently lapping pool. Looking down into the octopus’ face the man said, “O poor little octopi, already so delicious and sweet, you are so perfectly exploitable for my own artistic expression.”

And the octopus shed a tear.

*

As our introductory story illustrates sepia is a natural and ancient pigment. It was Cicero in 45BC who first recorded the use of sepia for both drawing and writing in his De Natura Deorum. The famous orator kindly and concisely explained how sepia is made by removing and treating the contents of the ink sacs of various sad cephalopods including cuttlefish and octopus. This makes sepia a strictly non-vegan art material! If you are a vegan, don’t fool yourself! Maybe don’t even read this blog!

True sepia is used exclusively in watercolour and ink as it does not respond well to oil or acrylic.  When presented as “sepia” in these latter mediums it contains a mixture of other pigments trying to replicate the rich brown of the real thing. As we don’t deal in knock-offs at Green & Stone we will no longer mention these pale imitations! The true brown of sepia is semi-transparent and depending on its dilution it ranges from a very dark and powerful brown to a delicate glowing light wash. In comparison to the cool greenish-brown of bistre, sepia is a warm reddish-brown similar to burnt umber.

Sepia enjoyed its heyday in the 18th and 19th centuries when it was used by such greats as Turner and Van Gogh. Nowadays, it is not so popular due to its semi-permanent nature. However, this pigment is brilliantly dynamic and exciting to use and if you don’t leave it baking in the sun it’ll be preserved for posterity (see Turner and Van Gogh!).

As mentioned before sepia is used exclusively(!) in watercolour and ink, but in my own wretchedly humble opinion it is most enjoyable as French sepia ink which is an ink mixed with a shellac base. In this form it has a waterproof satin finish. Mixed with shellac the ink gains a light viscosity which, when used with a brush, feels rather silkier and softer than say, Indian ink, and also gives it a little more visible body which shows, when dried on paper, the way one has used their brush. Furthermore, the shellac seems to add to the glow of sepia, giving it extra liveliness. Indeed, having just used the French ink a customer came in and exclaimed, “It’s so dynamic, look!” as she gleefully thrust her paintings in my face.

In Holy Island Cathedral (pictured) Turner perfectly shows the depth and range of the “colour” and tones of sepia watercolour by highlighting areas of contrasting light and shade in the ruins. Indeed, sepia is perfect for making monochromatic tonal studies and sketches in preparation for larger works of art in different mediums.

Where Turner mostly used sepia for watercolour painting Van Gogh used it for drawing with a reed dip-pen. Van Gogh’s drawings of peasants farming and trees swirling highlighted the raw, earthen, toilin’ in the fields look of sepia. Undiluted, Van Gogh’s dark mark-making perfectly reflect the warm and gritty rurality of 19th century France.

What more is there to say about sepia? Only to try this slightly maligned colour out, for sketches, studies or full-blown masterpieces!

By Ned Elliott

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Oh My Gouache!

“Oh my, Gouache!” said the paintbrush to the puddle of paint.

“What?” the puddle replied.

“You are a babe of an aqueous medium! You’re velvety soft, excellently opaque and so, so deeply colourful! I can’t believe I haven’t told you this before.”

Pleased with the surprise barrage of compliments, Gouache could only say “Well gee, thanks, I didn’t want to brag but yeah, I am pretty darn cool aren’t I?” And so, Gouache put on his sunglasses and went on to create some of the most delicious paintings the world would ever see.

*

Gouache itself is a paint made from a mix of pigments, water-soluble gum and chalky filler or white pigment. This ingenious mix, similar but profoundly different to the composition of watercolour, is well known for being a favourite of designers and illustrators but by no means is it limited to such arenas. In fact, gouache can be used in such a way as to mimic oil paint.

The qualities of gouache are numerous. Gouache, with its large amounts of binders and fillers forms a real film with total hiding power. When painted to a full film it has a matt opaque surface which gives it a strength, solidity and weight which sometimes even oil lacks. It is this dried earth look which Matisse cleverly exploited in his cut-outs. The ingredient of the filler or white pigment also gives gouache a light reflecting quality which enhances the strong contrasting values often used in its paintings. However, cool old gouache can do much more than only this.

Standing in the Tate and looking at the pre-Raphaelite paintings of Edward Burne-Jones one might assume their eyes had lain upon an oil, but no, it is quite likely to be a gouache! Once one has overcome such an embarrassing slip-up and apologised to the gallery attendant for being such a sinful idiot one can begin to further appreciate the versatility of this paint. Sidonia von Bork for example shows how gouache can emanate the glow of oil despite its inherent mattness.  Burne-Jones also exhibits how gouache can recreate the delicacy, detail and sense of form more familiar in oil and acrylic. Other artists to exploit gouache’s oily mimicry include Anish Kapoor and Egon Schiele.

Arthur Melville is the artist who truly championed gouache. Firstly, Melville showed that whilst watercolours are undeniably superior when used in transparent or semi-transparent washes gouache was perfectly capable too. Indeed, when transparent pigments such as burnt sienna or phthalo blue are used in a wash of gouache they are just as brilliant as that of a watercolour. Secondly, Melville explored the capabilities of gouache by developing a technique whereby he saturated his paper with Chinese white paint and then painted over it. This is why in paintings like The Blue Night, Venice and King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid the colours are so rich, deep and bejewelled. The latter painting also exhibits Melville’s final clever trick which was to manipulate different layers of gouache by using a damp clean brush and sponges to bring covered colours like his Chinese white from below to create ghostly fleeting forms and a velvet-like texture.

Topping off gouache’s all round excellence is that it can be mixed and matched freely with watercolour, ink, pastels and charcoals. A true free spirit! Of course, there are a few things gouache can’t do – it can’t sit out in the rain, it can’t be used in an impasto style, and, positively, it doesn’t become progressively transparent like oil paints can do with age.

If this has all rather tickled your fancy at Green and Stone we stock Winsor & Newton Designers’ Gouache and Schminke Horadam Artists’ Gouache. Designers’ gouache is intended for reproduction work, not permanent pieces. Whilst Artists’ is permanent, lightfast and is intended to create your magnum opus!

By Ned Elliott

 

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Blancety Blanc! The Truth behind White Paint

(Naked Man, Back View – Lucian Freud – Metropolitan Museum)

As an artist one is regularly presented with certain scenes to capture; the leaden skies of an overcast England; the sun-soaked shores of a far-away and better place; or the difficult to capture but beautifully poignant spectacle of a melting snowman’s face slowly curling down to a tragic frown. What we all need in these circumstances is a bit of white! But what’s the difference between the three main types, lead white, zinc white, and titanium white?

First, lead white. It is one of the earliest recorded manufactured pigments. As a pigment it is top notch! It is split into two main variants; cremnitz and flake white. These two have slight differences but both are favoured for their durability, pleasing tonal characteristics, excellent opacity and impasto quality. Famously, Lucian Freud was a devout fan – in overloading his canvas with the heavy, granular and milky-hued paint he rendered skin in a  rainbow of fleshy nuances. His intense depiction of the nude simply would not have been possible without lead white. But like most good things there is a less-good side – you can’t brush your teeth with it! It will poison you and drive you mad! Don’t do it (unless given license by English Heritage etc.) Thus, due to its toxic nature it cannot readily be considered for contemporary use. Alternatives to mimic lead white exist in Michael Harding’s warm white lead alternative or Charvin’s flake white hue.

Zinc white then, is one non-toxic alternative to the relegated lead. Whilst lead white is milky, opaque, and poisonous zinc white is snowy,  transparent, and healthy! Also known as Chinese white, it is a colder, bluer white with 1/10th of the tinting power of titanium white. This transparency means it compliments other transparent pigments and unlike titanium white it does not immediately change a colour to a pastel hue, thus it is perfect say for painting the faint wisps of your granny’s white hair. But beware, in oil it runs the risk of making brittle, hard films and as such zinc white generally finds its home in aqueous mediums where it is free from such defects and is muchly treasured by watercolourists.

Last of the three examined here is titanium white. It is extremely inert, highly durable (resisting temperatures of 1500 farenheit – hot!), is opaque, has excellent covering power and has the best tinctorial effect of any of the whites. Nowadays it is the standard white to go for when dolloping on the palette and is a good non-toxic alternative to lead white though like zinc white it is a colder, bright white bluish hue. When mixed with another colour it dramatically lightens it meaning it can be over-bearing at times – unlike zinc white which gives you more control. As another alternative in oil there is titanium-zinc white, a mix which combines the softness and opacity of titanium white with the transparency of zinc.

In essence, lead white is the ancient favourite but nowadays is scorned for its health implications, zinc white is valued for its unique transparency and titanium is understandably liked for its non-toxic child friendliness, excellent opacity and superior tinctorial power. The latter two are very distinct but are both useful for the artist. Nothing’s perfect and as such there is no entirely perfect white for universal pigment use. 

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The Grand Move of 2018

Now that our move from 259 Kings Road to 251-253 Fulham Road is complete it is now possible to look back on the move with an air of humour and positivity that was, perhaps, not always present in the moment. Once our inter-borough migration had been announced one of the phrases most often uttered by our astute customers was ‘What a lot to move!’. Indeed, the task before us was Herculean – to say the least.

We gave ourselves a week to complete the task and it all began the morning after the night before which saw staff and friendly faces say a fond farewell to the old premises. It was a bleary-eyed first day of dismantling and organising the shop fittings and piles of stock into one hundred red crates. Amongst the curios discovered during the crate-filling were retro examples of Winsor & Newton packaging, smatterings of astray watercolour pans, a dozen old pennies (no shillings), dust, more dust and sadly no fifty-pound notes.

Once the first round of crates had been filled with oils, papers, pencils, brushes, inks, etc. etc. etc! they were sent away to the fill the new, naked shop. But before anything could be put away our many plan chests, cabinets and shelves had to be moved and fitted in the new shop. Thus, unbelievably weighty items were shifted from one road to another with many grunts, sighs and expletives – but fortunately no broken backs and no hernias. The move of Victorian and 20th century furnishings was not entirely smooth – the pergamenta and marbled paper plan chest left in a bit of a huff and had to be rather unceremoniously stripped to a thinner state so as to fit out of the door.

And so, with the sign-writers at work on the outside, and the staff, electricians and carpenters working like ants on the inside, the new shop began to form. Like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis, or Mr Darcy appearing through the mist to embrace sweet Elizabeth Bennett, the new shop reminded us of Green and Stone’s undeniable and inherent romance. Freshly painted, polished and fitted shelves were again filled with the dazzling colours, textures, and smells of our stock whilst lay-men began to dance and prance around the shop just like before.

Along with the regular staff, the move was aided by two sign-writers, numerous removal men, a few called-in favours and a couple of carpenters. In all, more than thirty people must have been involved in some way in the week-long move. But importantly we could not have done it without the support from our Crowdfunder so thank you very much again for the support. We could not have done it without you.

With our two huge new skylights one could mistakenly believe they were in heaven! We are modest folk, but rightly chuffed. For anyone concerned that we might lose our old school charm in the move it is still very much here – with a grand-spanking new gallery too! Come and see it for yourself!