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The Pigment Timeline Project



A Colour A Day: Week 50

By Ruth Siddall, on 7 March 2021

A Colour A Day: Week 50 1st – 7th March
Jo Volley writes…

This weeks colours include Peter Newell Price’s Black Carbon Fibre who says of it;

‘Carbon fibre was first used in1860 by Sir Joseph Swan as a filament in the development of the first primitive incandescent light bulb, from which Thomas Edison further developed the first long lasting electric incandescent light bulbs. High performance structural carbon fibre used today was invented in the USA in 1958 by Roger Bacon. Its commercial manufacture took many years to develop and uses polyacrylonitrile as its raw material, which is white in colour. It is stretched, oxidised and finally carbonised in high temperature furnaces, in an inert atmosphere, that vaporise half of its materiality. The end product, carbon fibre, is almost pure carbon and black.

My own use of Carbon fibre came about almost by accident. I’d been using some in a totally practical way to strengthen some laminated fibre glass joints when a section of the woven carbon fibre cloth unravelled and linear lines of the warp and weft from the cloth fell to the floor. What immediately interested me was that the scattered black lines were like a drawing and not just because they were linear, but because they were the same element as one of its allotropes graphite, the material of a humble pencil. I liked the idea that a drawing in carbon fibre extended the pencil line, yet it had the tensile strength to liberate the line off the paper.

I experimented with ways of using carbon fibre, making three dimensional drawings, which lead to using it in a milled form to mix with epoxy to make fillers and trying it with mediums, to see if it would work as a pigment to make a black paint. The fibres are extremely fine, about 7 micrometers in diameter and reflective, so I’ve found that as a paint it has a subtle velvety appearance, which slightly tones down its blackness. Used as a water colour the black tone remains consistent with no secondary tone bleeding from the denser black.

Carbon and what we call black has a tightly fused relationship. Black is technically not a colour, as black absorbs all light from the visible spectrum and reflects none of the light back into our sight. So it is carbon in its various forms and shades which has formed the physical interpretations of what we know as black. I like to see black and carbon as one and the same and If black is the absence of light then carbon, like Joseph Swans light bulb has made it shine.’

Image: Peter Newell Price Untitled A3

First column top to bottom:

Indian Purple in gum Arabic
Jo Volley’s Iron solution (2019)
Field’s Purple in gum Arabic

Middle column:

Peter Newell Price’s Black Carbon Fibre (2018) in gum Arabic

Third column top to bottom:

Perrindo Violet in gum Arabic
David Dobson’s Synthetic Vivianite (2017) in gum Arabic


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