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Pinch of Pigment: Ontario Ochre

Pinch of Pigment: Ontario Ochre

Naples yellow. Antwerp blue. Some paint pigments are named for a sense of place. Perhaps we need an Ontario ochre? 

Some pigments match a sense of place. Naples Yellow is named for the light it evokes in the Italian sky. Cobalt Blue is named after German goblins inhabiting mines. Raw Sienna is a clay found in the Siena region of Italy. The names are kind of locked in now, historically describing popular paint colours even when modern synthetic pigments replace the original source. 

I live in Ontario, Canada, and in the autumn in particular, it gets me thinking about the paintings of the Group of Seven and the light and colour they saw not so long ago. Whenever I'm walking outdoors, I think about colour and light. I photograph clouds, and trees, especially when I feel like they match features in paintings of the past. And perhaps we need an Ontario Ochre. 

It's the clouds and the leaves on the bright blue. It's home. Credit: Glendon Mellow

It's the clouds and the leaves on the bright blue. It's home. Credit: Glendon Mellow

The painting below, In the Northland, painted in 1915 by Tom Thomson evokes the kind of ochre orange-yellow I am talking about. As far as I know it's not made out of local clays, and yet it still has that upstate New York - southern Ontario yellow that makes me think of crunchy leaves, a cold breeze, and brilliant sun on fast-moving clouds by the lake. 

In the Northland, Tom Thomson 1915. Credit: Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, 1922.179 

In the Northland, Tom Thomson 1915. Credit: Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, 1922.179 

Perhaps pride of place also drove the naming of paint pigments back in Europe centuries ago. That feeling of connection to home. 

All fine art paints are pigment particles bound in a sticky medium: vegetable oil, gum arabic or acrylic polymer. Find more Pinch of Pigment posts below. This is the 6th in the series.

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