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The Pigment Timeline Project



A Colour A Day: Week 19

By Ruth Siddall, on 2 August 2020

A Colour A Day – Week 19.  27th July-2nd August

Jo Volley writes…..

This week we celebrate the last seven FA Cup finals using the predominant colour worn by the winning team on the day. The FA Cup is the world’s oldest football competition, the first games played in the autumn of 1871, the same year as the Slade School was established. Arsenal have won the cup a record 14 times. 🏆

Each colour can be found in the Liquitex Soft Body Acrylic range and is on W&N watercolour paper.


A Colour A Day: Week 18

By Ruth Siddall, on 26 July 2020

A Colour A Day Week 18: 20th-26th July

Jo Volley writes…..

Fluorescent color is seen 75 percent sooner than conventional color! Flourescent color is three times brighter than regular color! Your eyes go back to fluorescent colour for a second look 59 percent of the time! DayGlo promotional material, 1930s

The American Chemical Society designated the development of DayGlo Flourescent Pigments by the Switzer brothers as a National Historic Chemical Landmark in a ceremony in Cleveland, Ohio, on September, 8, 2012.

7 Kremer fluorescent pigments bound in gum arabic.

Red Brick
Golden Yellow
Light Yellow
Magenta Red


A Colour A Day: Week 17

By Ruth Siddall, on 19 July 2020

A Colour A Day.  Week 17: 13-19 July

Jo Volley writes…

Over the last week I have had the privilege to work with 7 colours produced and sent to me by Ruth Siddall.  To receive these little packets of pigments through the post and work them into paint has been a pure delight.    

Ruth says of them. “These colours are all based on lake pigments made from American plants and an insect, the cochineal beetle. Three are wood dyes (logwood, brazilwood and osage orange), Aztec marigold was made from dried flowers, the avocado lake was made from a dye extracted from the stones of the fruit. Annatto (or achiote, achiotl) is a spice made from seeds. The latter was used as a ink in historical Mexican painting, and also as food colouring and a cosmetic.”    

All are bound in gum arabic on W&N watercolour paper and read from left to right.

Osage Orange, Maclura pomifera
Annatto, Bixa orellana
Cochineal, Dactylopius coccus
Logwood, Haematoxylum campechianum
Brazilwood, Caesalpina echinata
Aztec Marigold, Tagetes erecta
Avocado, Persea americana

A Colour A Day: Week 16

By Ruth Siddall, on 12 July 2020

A Colour A Day Week 16: 6th -12th July

Jo Volley writes…

This week’s A Colour A Day is inspired by Robert Rauschenberg’s White Painting (seven panel), 1952.

Of the series, his friend the composer, John Cage wrote:

To Whom / No subject / No image / No taste / No object / No beauty / No message / No talent /
No technique (no why) / No idea / No intention / No art / No object / No feeling / No black / No
white (no and) / After careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing in
these paintings that could not be changed, that they can be seen in any light and are not
destroyed by the action of shadows. / Hallelujah! the blind can see again; the water’s fine.

Read from left to right are 7 white pigments bound in gum arabic on W&N watercolour paper.

  1. Lead
  2. Zirkonium silicate
  3. Egg Shell
  4. Zinc
  5. White Earth
  6. Fluorescent white
  7. Titanium

A Colour A Day: Week 15

By Ruth Siddall, on 5 July 2020

A Colour A Day: Week, 15. 29th June – 5th July

Jo Volley writes…….

In spring 2017, Nisar Hossain, Dean of the Fine Art Faculty, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh, Artist and specialist on Contemporary Painting and Folk Painting of Bangladesh, led a contemporary installation  workshop at the Slade based on traditional Folk Art of Bangladesh.  He also gave  a public lecture at the Whitechapel Gallery The heritage of ritualistic folk painting and the traditional painter communities of Bangladesh as part of the Inspire exchange project between the Slade School of Fine Art and the University of Dhaka Faculty of Fine Art, Bangladesh funded by the British Council.

Links to various workshops throughout the Inspire project

Here are 7 of the colours Nisar generously donated to the Material Research Project pigment library, written in Bangla, as he gave me. Each are bound in gum Arabic on W&N watercolour paper and read from left to right.

  1. Hāra pathar
  2. Haritāl
  3. Sindura
  4. Bhusha kali
  5. Hingula
  6. Elamati
  7. Nīl


A Colour A Day: Week 14

By Ruth Siddall, on 28 June 2020

A Colour A Day week 14; 22nd-28th June

Jo Volley writes …
I am currently working on a timeline of Van Gogh’s colours for the Van Gogh House in London. In a letter to Theo dated 8th April 1888, Arles, he writes;

‘My Dear Theo, Am obliged to write to you as I’m sending you an order for colours which, if you place with Tasset & Lhote, rue Fontaine, you’ll do well – since they know me – to tell them that I expect a discount at least equivalent to the cost of the carriage…‘ He continues with a list of instructions for colours, canvas and carriage then writes…


A Colour A Day: Week 13

By Ruth Siddall, on 21 June 2020

A Colour A Day Week 13; 15th – 21st June
Jo Volley writes….
This week’s feature of 7 greys also  includes the poem Penumbra  by artist and poet, Sharon Morris,  from her collection False Spring, Enitharmon Press, 2007.  Sharon is a Professor at the Slade School of Fine Art.


Your shadow has fallen on me
like the fig tree
in its profusion

and I am left
chasing your image
as the sun drops

into occlusion, you
running with that cusp of light
against disappearance,

my tears
wanting to make your face haptic
from its shroud.


Colours read from left to right and are painted out onto W&N watercolour paper:

  1. Galena
  2. Bone grey (JV/12)
  3. Graphite
  4. Neutral grey
  5. Payne’s grey
  6. Ash grey (JV/20)
  7. Melser Grau

A Colour A Day: Week 12

By Ruth Siddall, on 14 June 2020

A COLOUR A DAY – Week 12; 8th-14th June

Jo Volley writes….

This week’s colours are 7 earths, gifted by Steven Patterson, Chief Executive Officer, Derivan, an Australian artist materials manufacturer, from their Matisse Structure range. Four being from the Yirrkala set of natural  Australia pigments whose names are as much a joy to the ear as their colour to the eye. Each colour is painted out in 3 layers on W&N watercolour paper.

They read from left to right:

  1. Gurrngan
  2. Miku
  3. Ganggul
  4. Watharr
  5. Australian Sienna
  6. Yellow Oxide
  7. Raw Umber

A Colour A Day: Week 11

By Ruth Siddall, on 7 June 2020

A Colour A Day: Week 11. 1-7 June

Jo Volley writes ………

How to Make a Violet Colour

Chapter LXXIII

If you wish to make a pretty violet colour, take fine lac and ultramarine blue, in equal parts. Then, when it is tempered, take three dishes as and before; and leave some of this violet colour in its little dish, for touching up the darks. Then, with what you take out of it, make up three values of colour for laying the drapery, each stepped up lighter than the others, as described above.  Il Libro dell’Arte Cennino Cennini

  1. Mineral Violet
  2. Cinquasia Violet
  3. Ultramarine Violet
  4. Fantal Violet
  5. Manganese Violet
  6. Cobalt Violet Dark
  7. Thioindigo Violet

A Colour A Day: Week 10

By Ruth Siddall, on 31 May 2020

A Colour A Day Week 10; 25th-31st May
Jo Volley writes …
This week’s colours are produced by Ruth Siddall and dedicated to the Land Art pioneer Agnes Denes on her  89th birthday on Sunday 31st May. 
These colours represent my first experiments in lake pigments; dyes made insoluble by the addition of a mordant, in this case alum with the further addition of either potassium or sodium carbonate in solution. The initial dye baths were made from raw materials from my kitchen (waste onion skins and dried hibiscus and marigold flowers used in tisanes), plant material collected from local areas of parkland (nettles, dandelion and bark from birch logs) and finally some madder roots which were sent to me as a present by Stephanie Nebbia, courtesy of the Winsor & Newton laboratories. All were made in my kitchen, with adapted equipment and materials during the initial few weeks of lockdown in March and April 2020.’ Ruth Siddall   
1. Birch Bark (alkaline)
2. Dandelion Lake
3. Nettle Green(copper modifier)
4. Rose Madder
5. Hibiscus Lake
6. Marigold Lake
7. Onion Skin Lake