Friday, September 19, 2008

Ivory Black: Black Pigment Series, Part 2

IVORY BLACK is also referred to as Bone Black and, although their names have been used interchangeably, you will see that they are actually different pigments.

The making of the Ivory Black was first described in the 4th century B.C. Ivory scraps were packed into clay pots and covered with an iron lid, leaving as little air as possible in the pots. The ivory was then exposed to high heat. This produced a very intense black, but was an extremely expensive process.

A cheaper method was invented by the Romans by burning ordinary animal bones instead of ivory. This became known as Bone Black and soon replaced Ivory Black in popularity. Artist started referring to Bone Black as Ivory Black and eventually the name stuck. So what we commonly know today as Ivory Black is actually...Bone Black.

True Ivory Black has a higher carbon content than Bone Black and is more intense. It is the deep velvety black found in the backgrounds of Rembrandt's portraits. The genuine pigment is still made in tiny quantities from Ivory harvested from animals that have died naturally but is almost as expensive as genuine Lapis Lazuli Ultramarine.

Ivory Black is a good, all purpose black that has a weak tinting strength and is slightly warm in color. This is a good choice for mixing greys, tinting and mixing with other colors.

A very slow drier in oil, it is not a good choice for an underpainting. It produces a soft and brittle oil paint. It can never be used in Fresco as it crystallizes.

Downsides: It is considered toxic. Do not breath dust. The slower drying time could be an advantage or a downside, depending on your preference.


Robin Maria Pedrero said...

Oh this is so informative! I did not know some of these facts.

redchair said...

One of the things that’s interesting is realizing the names of all the paints (that we so take for granted) originated from their ‘original’ components from centuries back. I, like most, assumed some advertisers just came up with their titles.

I don’t know if your saw/read ‘The Girl with the Pearl Earring”? Vermeer’s patron leans over to his wife, who is admiring the rich deep yellow in her portrait, and says, “Did you know that yellow he uses is made from cow’s urine?”


Anonymous said...

This was a good idea of yours to post on the colors and pigments. Very interesting. But do you really have any of these historical ones in your paintbox, such as ivory black from ground tusk or lapis lazuli from the gem?

Peggi Habets said...

Robin & Vikki,
Yes, I thought it was interesting to see how the pigments developed and where the names came from. Yes, I saw that movie but forgot that part. I wonder what they force-fed those poor cows.

100 swallows,
I have your basic lamp black for watercolor and ivory (which I now know is bone black) black for oils. I bought those particular blacks because instructors had them on their materials list and I had no idea what to choose. When I went to online forums to see what most painters preferred, they weren't nearly as passionate about their blacks as they are about their whites.

Manon Doyle said...

Your posts always teach me something new. Actually..... I don't think I learned this much in art school!