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Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The Campaign for Cadmium – UPDATE

You may remember back in June we shared a blog detailing the campaign for an outright ban on cadmium by the ECHA (European Chemical Agency), and the impact this could have on artists. Now, a few months down the line, we’re happy to report a fantastic update.

The European Commission has issued its communication confirming that it will not adopt a REACH restriction on cadmium in artists' paints.

Good friend of Pegasus Art, Michael Craine (Managing Director of Cranfield Colours – Spectrum Oil & Caligo Inks) has shared the following update with us, which we’re happy to pass on to you all.

In 2013/4 the EU’s Chemical Agency responded to a Scandinavian request that attempted to reduce the quantity of cadmium batteries sent to land-fill waste across Europe. Alarmingly the proposed legislation made no allowance for the entirely safe cadmium compounds used in artists’ paints and if successfully adopted would have seen Cadmium banned from use by European paint makers. Without concerted and urgent effort, artists would have been deprived of the vibrant cadmium yellows, reds and oranges that have formed an essential part of the professional palette since the 1840’s!

What Spectrum did and how you helped!
Spectrum Paints is a comparatively small UK paint maker but unrestricted by legal departments and press officers. Michael Craine, Rachel VolpĂ© and Angela Brown set about raising awareness and speaking with the EU through the paint maker’s trade organisation CEPE. Artists & Illustrators Magazine was an early convert and joined the campaign to spread the word and encourage individual artists to use the online facility to contact the ECHA with their views. Michael Craine recalls ‘It was a fascinating time through which we had a growing sense that perhaps the strength of our argument might win through. As a result of the magazine publicity and further blogging by retailers (you can read our previous blog post here and other enthusiasts and supporters, the story went global! We were contacted by British broad-sheet newspapers, the story was taken up by Emma-Jane Kirby of the BBC who interviewed Michael for a broadcast on Radio 4’s PM programme. We made it onto the BBC news. We even appeared in the media in the USA, South Africa, Australia and the French and German press’.

What happened?
The European Chemical Agency ECHA were impressed with both the reasonable, informed and strongly held views of the art world that pigments such as Cadmium Sulphate are perfect pigments. Perfectly safe, perfectly strong, wonderfully lightfast and of unique shades. There are alternatives but no replacements! Rachel VolpĂ© of Spectrum Paints comments that ‘Whilst we discussed the technical case for Cadmium pigments, many artists were passionately able to stress the economic and artistic importance of cadmiums as they uniquely bring warmth, light, strength and colour to paintings to stand the test of time’.

Have we won just a temporary reprieve?
This is more than a reprieve. The ECHA recognise our case and acknowledge the substance of our arguments. ‘This astonishing collaboration has taken up a great deal of time for me over the last two years and innumerable emails, meetings and conversations, but it was worth it!’ says Michael Craine. Not only is the change of heart over Cadmium a joyous occasion in its own right, the fact that the artist fraternity is recognised as a community in its own right is an exciting development and one that should help us protect our mutual interests in the future. So congratulations and sincere thanks all round!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

The Campaign for Cadmium

Unless you have been locked in a studio cupboard for the past few weeks you must be aware of the imminent threat of an outright ban on cadmium by the ECHA (European Chemical Agency). There have been many articles including a great piece int he July Issue of Artist and Illustrator, written by Michael Craine, the MD of Spectrum Paint. In it he lays out the reasons why the ban is under consideration, and the rather startling implications for artists if it goes ahead.

The proposal is not aimed at artists directly, but we will be affected by it to a considerable degree. Whether you paint in watercolour, oil or acrylic, a ban on cadmium-based pigments will have a serious impact on your colour palette. I don't use cadmium reds as often but I use both Cadmium Yellow and Lemon all the time (those landscape greens don't mix themselves) and from long experience I know that other yellows don't have the intensity, light-fastness and pigment strength I need.

Artists have been caught up in an environmental issue to do with cadmium from spent batteries in landfill, leaching into and contaminating groundwater. If the cadmium ban goes ahead, it will have a considerable impact on your favourite art materials shop. You won;t be able to get round it by buying raw pigment for making your own colours - production will just stop and cadmium colours in all forms would be removed from sale.

The European artists' colours association (CEPE) is the body that represents artists' paint manufacturers in Europe, and members include Spectrum, Winsor and Newton and Dale-Rowney amongst others. The experience of artists will help them to present an informed contribution to the debate.

To help them to understand how artists dispose of their used paint from brushes and how mush is actually wasted, CEPE woudl like to hear from painters (whether they use oil, acrylic or watercolour) how much they value the cadmium colours in their palette; how much they use, and how they dispose of the residues; given the cost of cadmium colours, most artists try not to water any at all if they can help it. Even to the extent of splitting and scraping out the tubes for the last dregs!

To have your say, you can go to:


You only have a few weeks to make a submission; the ECHA consultation ends on the 19th September; then deliberations start, and the ban could be in place within two years.

Let Pegasus Art know your thoughts on the topic by commenting below. Do you use cadmium colours? Are there any products out there for you which deliver the same intensity?

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Cobra Water Mixable Oils for true painting freedom!

Imagine the joy of painting anywhere with no need for lugging around solvents! Cobra Water Mixable Oils are artist-quality oil paints allowing you the freedom to paint indoors or outdoors, with the same feel as painting with traditional oil paints - but with only the need to mix with water.

As an oil painter who loves working outside - in most weathers except drenching rain - I am finally relieved to see that Spring seems to be on its way. Good news, but for one thing. I have a perennial problem; solvents.

Loading up my ageing car with screw-top jars of solvents makes me uneasy. Transporting them across fields in my painting kit, hoping they don't leak, complicates my painting process. Acrylic painters are probably reading with a righteous glow as all they really need is a big pot of water and away they go!

In recent years, oil painters have had that option too with the development of water-mixable oils. As a dyed-in-the-wool traditional oil painter, I have to say that I found them a bit odd. Generally the texture wasn't the same, they didn't 'behave' like oil paint should. The colour was limited; in fact acrylics were much more versatile.

However, now I have the best of both worlds. I have been given a set of the new range of Cobra water-mixable oils to try out from Royal Talens, the makers of Rembrandt oils... and they are really good!

There are 70 high pigment quality colours in the 40ml tube range, and 30 colours in 150ml tubes. They are a true oil paint but as you work you wash your brushes out in water. And when you're back in the studio? Warm soapy water cleans everything up as good as new. These new Cobra Oils are very competitively priced for paint of such pigment quality in 4 series - starting at £4.40 for series 1*.

Whatever your painting style there is a Cobra medium to enhance your work, including Cobra paint medium equivalent to linseed oil, Cobra glaze medium and a colourless impasto medium which adds body but softens intensity of colour.

I am reallly looking forward to getting out into the countryside and trying them out, armed with my paints and a big bottle of water. Sky studies here I come!

*Series numbers explained. 
Good 'artist quality' paints, whether acrylic, oil or watercolour, are priced in series with Series 1 (or A) being the cheapest and higher series rising in price as the series number - or letter - goes up. This is because some ingredients are more expensive to obtain or to process and the series number reflects this. In general, Earth colours tend to be cheaper, (Series 1) and cadmium and cobalt colours are at the top end of the price range with high series numbers (5,6 or higher). 

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Choosing and preparing a painting support

We are often asked about the merits of different painting supports. Painters have a huge range of different surfaces to choose from; primed papers and canvas boards, ready-made canvases of all shapes and sizes, and for the more adventurous, the materials for making your own. In this article the Pegasus Art team go through some of the options open to artists, shining a bit of light on some of the more mysterious corners of the painting world.

Painting Papers

Primed painting papers are economical, good for practice, colour-mixing swatches and quick sketches. They have a canvas-like texture, can be cut to the size you need and taped to a board with masking tape.

For Acrylics... 

Daler Rowney System 3 paper is specially formulated for acrylics. It comes in pads of 20 sheets from A5 to A2. The 'ready to use' textured acrylic sheets have the look and feel of linen without being expensive. Ideal for working out compositions and making studies. 

For Oils...

Fabriano Tela is a fine grain oil 300gsm painting paper from the renowned Fabriano paper manufacturer in Italy providing an excellent surface bond for oil paints and oil bars. Available in pads of 10 sheets in the three sizes - perfect for art classes or quick oil sketches!
Clairefontaine oil paper is a high quality textured 240gsm linen paper. Also available in single sheets, the pads of 12 sheets are glued on all four sides making a stable and easy to use textured paper pad for oil paint. Simply use a craft knife or long nail to remove.

For something a little special we recommend the Arches oil painting paper. It's a beautiful paper with the look and feel of cold-pressed watercolour paper, 4 deckle edges and the Arches watermark. It has been specially developed for oil painting and is ready to use, needing no extra sizing or primer. Sheets are 56x76cms (22x30"), 300gsm/140lbs weight, and made from 100% cotton. An oil painting on paper that looks like an expensive watercolour paper is truly intriguing! 

Canvas Boards

Canvas boards have a similar surface texture to painting paper with the added advantage of being a firm a support. The smaller sizes fit into pochade painting boxes and are an excellent option for painting out of doors as they are easier to handle than canvas. (Top tip: Lay sheets of newspaper on the parcel shelf of your car to transport wet paintings. It's what the parcel shelf is for!).
I use boards quite often outside, giving them a preparatory wash over with thinned down burnt sienna or raw umber to knock the brightness off and give a warm or earthy tone behind the later paint.

If you are used to painting on paper or board, ready-made canvases are a good way to start working on a very different, flexible and responsive surface. It can take a bit of getting used to but painting on a lovely, tight springy canvas is like nothing else!

Stretched Canvases - Ready Made in Deep or Traditional Depths

Be careful about where you buy them; ready made canvases can vary hugely in quality. If you see a pile of them in a budget book shop window for a knockdown price, rest assured you will get what you pay for. Very cheap canvases have been made by literally cutting corners, using paper thin canvas and 'low-fat' primer. They dent easily and tend to slacken off when painted on - beware!

We have tried all the ones we stock ourselves and we can honestly say that they represent really good value. The best ready made canvases have well-made corners and good priming on a sturdy cotton or linen canvas. If you finish the edges of the painting neatly, the chunky, deep edge canvases don't need to be framed; they can go straight on the wall!

Make Your Own - Stretcher Bars, Canvas & Linen

If you are new to painting or simply want to try a different surface to paint on the choices may be bewildering. Making your own canvases might seem a bit daunting but it allows you flexibility to choose the surface that you like best, and prepare it yourself.

You have your stretcher frame: what do you stretch on it? 

The cheapest and easiest fabric to stretch is unprimed cotton canvas, also known as 'duck'. We stock
9oz and 12oz cotton duck. It is sold by the metre from a roll 274cms wide. 12oz cotton also comes in a narrower 183cm roll. (The mixing of imperial and metric seems to be a tradition peculiar to the art world).
9oz cotton  duck is a lightweight fabric which can be stretched evenly and tight without fear of tearing.
12oz cotton duck is a stronger, heavier weave and more durable... especially if you are a heavy handed painter!
Whichever cotton you use it will need to be primed before you paint on it. There are excellent acrylic primers available, suitable for both acrylic and oils. A couple of even coats and you're ready to paint!

If time is of the essence and you need to get on with it you can also buy ready-primed 10oz cotton canvas by the metre. This comes on a 150cm wide roll and has three coats of universal acrylic primer. It is a good surface for acrylics and oils, stretches well and is ready to paint on when the last staple goes in.

Traditionally the finest surface for painting has always been linen. Artists working on commission, portrait painters; anyone with an eye to posterity are prepared to pay a bit more for the beautiful grey-green fabric. Our linen comes from the Belgian company Claessens, a specialist who has been making fabric since 1906.

The 10-metre rolls are 210cms wide but can be ordered in 3-metre width linens for the occasional painter who wants to go BIG!

For most subjects, the 066 medium-weave unprimed linen is just right, but some portrait painters prefer a finer fabric and for that 012 unprimed linen is the perfect choice. Both of these fabrics need preperation before painting and are more of a challenge to stretch than cottons.

Fortunately Claessens have made the job a little easier with two ready-primed linens:
No166 medium weight, with a universal primed surface - even and smooth to paint on in either acrylic or oils.
Fine Linen No12 has three coats of oil primer and is only suitable for oils. It is a fantastic, resilient painting surface very much worth the extra cost. It even smells wonderful!

A message from Pegasus Art:

We hope you found this article interesting and useful, 
We tried to be helpful, thorough and truthful. 
But if you need further advice or have a question to pose, 
We're here waiting patiently for you to compose. 

By email, by message, by tweet, or by phone, 
Our artists can offload the thoughts that they own.
The details below will help you get in touch, 
So please don't let this poem put you off too much. 

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Pegasus Art
Griffin Mill Trading Estate
London Road

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

CLAS Regional Day 2013, Cheltenham

On 20th October, Suzanne and Jane from Pegasus Art shop attended the CLAS Regional Day in Cheltenham hosted by Gloucestershire Letter Arts. It was an enjoyable and busy day meeting with interesting calligraphers, embossers, lettering artists, poets, painters and gilders showcasing Pegasus’ wide range of papers.

The theme of the day was ‘Works on Paper’ with over 200 delegates attending. The first lecture was by the renowned calligraphy artist Nancy Ouchida-Howells, author of Calligraphy (Easel Does It). Her tips and advice on calligraphy papers can be found on our How to… article here.

The afternoon lecture was given by Clifford Burt from RK Burt & Company who have been London paper suppliers since 1892. He was congratulated at the end of his talk for making a ‘dry’ story so interesting and full of humour.

Clifford based his talk on explaining the manufacture and history of paper making, both fine art papers through to newsprint. His talk was full of the facts and myths of paper making.

15 facts on papers and paper making

1. Paper Making: Start of process there is 97% water 3% material, by the finish the transformation is complete and there is 3% water and 97% material. 

2. Differences between the hand mould and cylinder mould methods are in the procedure and the speed of production.  

3. Handmade papers made on a wooden or bamboo frame (Hand mould) by traditional methods result in papers with attractive uneven (deckle) edges and vary often with the imprint of the mesh on the paper giving a ‘laid’ pattern. 

4. Cylinder Mould: the density of pulp and speed of the machines rotating cylinders affects the weight of the final paper product. The paper is pulled off the wires to felts and the drying section. The use of naturally woven felts affects the final surface of the fine art papers. 

5. Drying the papers: steam is pumped through rotating cylinders to evaporate moisture from the paper. The rate of rotation vary and alter the rough or smoothness of the paper. The rate of rotation plus no heat in the process results in the medium textured surface Cold Pressed (or NOT, as in Not Hot Pressed).  

6. Artist quality papers which are 100% Cotton forms less than 10,000 tons annually of the entire paper industry but this high quality paper loved by artists keeps the industry alive.  

7. Cotton Linters: the shorter fibres from the seeds of the cotton plant are too short for the clothes industry but these short fibres translate to long fibres in beautiful papers. Rags, linen, old clothing were used to make 100% Rag paper, but these can no longer be used due to the introduction of man-made fibres in clothing.  

8. Wood Free Pulp does contain wood! The term is used to show that it has been chemically treated to take out the lignin.  

9. Mechanical pulp contains lignin and will yellow and deteriorate over a short time. You only have to look at old newspapers to see the process.  

10. Additives to Paper: papers absorb atmosphere and additives are used to help to protect them. Calcium Carbonate (chalk) is added to watercolour paper; papers are buffered to protect the surface; Titanium Dioxide is sometimes added to create whiteness and Optical Brightening agents - Persilicates (origin of Persil washing powder!) are used for whiteness.  

11. Sizing: is critical to how paper works. Gelatine or starch is used to repel/control water. It is used internally, externally or sometimes both depending upon the type of paper use: watercolour, printmaking, embossing etc.  

12. Watermarks were invented by Fabriano in 1296 by using embroidery fixed to wire mesh which resulted in a recognisable embossed mark.  

13. Coloured paper: Light fastness of coloured paper. Coloured paper will generally fade over time but those papers made with pigments (Canson Mi Tientes) rather than dyes are more light fast.  

14. Paper storage tips for artists: plastic bags or plastic portfolios protect paper from the atmosphere. For example if you live in Cornwall your atmosphere pH will be easy on your paper. The closer to London you live the more acidic the atmosphere and the more dirty your papers will become if left to absorb this atmosphere.  

15. How to stretch paper: many artists put paper in the bath before taping their paper to a board.  Remember that any detergent residue destroys the sizing of your paper so that it will be damaged and react differently to paint. The best method is to hold your paper under tap, avoid fingers and keep conditions as sterile as possible.  

Clifford finished his fact filled talk with a question and answer session which participants enjoyed, he was asked several memorable questions but his one word retort to the following caused good humoured amusement and brought the session to its end.

"I use wallpaper roll for my rough work - what sort of paper is that?" artist.
"Rubbish", replied Clifford.

CLAS Regional day in Cheltenham was a resounding success for everyone involved and Pegasus Art would like to thank everyone for allowing us to attend, we learnt a lot!