Even printmakers get the blues

The carving and printing of my monster cloud linocut continues. While most of the colorful land has been printed, the monochromatic clouds make up the majority of the work. I’m trying to capture the moody pre-storm clouds with a range of blues. Blues are one of those pigments that have always given artists fits, and I am no exception.

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(Detail) Three blues down and a couple more to go to complete my moody clouds.

Midway through the clouds, I have had two Gamblin Artists Colors to choose from: phthalo blue and Prussian blue. Both pigments lean toward the green side, which is challenging when working with clouds. Prussian blue, when intense, actually leans toward black.  I’ve had to use both quinacridone red (a cool red) and napthol scarlet (a bright orange) to drag the blues away from the green side, and into the blue-gray.  It also doesn’t help that the tint base I am using is slightly warm (tending toward a yellow.)

Gamblin used to make an ultramarine blue relief ink, but has stopped. I don’t know the reason, but today’s synthetic ultramarine pigments are said to be at risk of discoloration in more acidic environments. I had previously relied on ultramarine blue for any blues that were neutral or leaned toward indigo…

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Is it a canyon or a cloud?

There is one piece of hope, not for this linocut sadly, but for the future. A blue pigment called YlnMn was discovered by accident by chemist Mas Subramaniam and his lab at Oregon State University. It has now been licensed for commercial use, and the lab has given it to some local Oregon artists to try out. You can see a printmaker use the pigments here. This new blue, which tends toward neutral blue to cool (purply) blue is stable and non-toxic to manufacture. I know it would be a wonderful addition to my printmaking palette.

Another interesting characteristic of this new pigment is that it reflects a large amount of infrared light, making it perfect for roofs that can keep buildings cooler. Can’t wait for blue roofing materials to hit the market either.

There is hope for our blues, too!

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