Notebook, 1993-


Nomenclature of Pigments

The artists'-material trade has emerged from more than two thousand years of utter confusion in the naming of pigments and some of these confusing names are still in circulation. The pigment names used in this book are in accordance with standard American practice as specified by the American Society for Testing and Materials [ASTM]. For complete pigment lists which also include obsolete, discredited, or confusing names and synonyms, the reader is referred to the complete manuals and to old books on the subject. [An all-inclusive list with an explanatory preface will be found in the author's The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques,Fifth Revised Edition, 1991]

[ASTM has established a set of specifications, to which artists' colors sold conform, and any tube of artist paint with a guarantee on the label that the tube complies with these specifications may be relied upon to be of acceptable quality. Paints that exceed these specifications would indeed be superlative in quality. The ASTM standards are the result of a voluntary agreement between artists' groups and manufacturers. Along with an improved naming system called the Color Index, these standards quickly reformed a chaotic nomenclature that had plagued artists for centuries. Everyone should help maintain standard pigment names and discourage the use of fanciful ones.

In evaluating the products of small, local, or new concerns, one must not be too prompt to condemn them, as it is entirely possible to make fine materials commercially on a small scale, and among such we find many entirely satisfactory products. However, it is well to remember that good intentions alone do not make good paints; experience over a long period of years in actual production is requisite, and the lack of sufficient resources to maintain uniformity of materials, experienced personnel, top manufacturing facilities, and rigid controls can be a great handicap to efficiency. [pp. 218-219]

[Mayer, Ralph. The Painter's Craft. An Introduction to Artist's Methods and Materials. Revised and updated by Steven Sheehan, Director of the Ralph Mayer Center, Yale University School of Art. New York: Penquin Group. 1948. 1991. ]



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