15. Jan, 2021

Let’s Talk White Oils

White paint, not much to say, you may think, but, with all the different types of white out there, are you sure you're using the right one?  

I had an epiphany this week.  Finally taking one week out of the endless colour pencil pet portrait schedule to get my own portfolio work done and develop my own creative skill and technique, I was running out of my supply of my trusted Titanium white.  

A while ago I went to buy some more titanium white, when stocks were running low before and my supplier had completely run out, but they did have zinc white.  Not knowing any better at the time, I thought, hell, why not, can't be much different.  It's still white oil paint, right?  Wrong!  When I started using zinc white, the texture wasn't creamy and silky like titanium, it was thick, dryish and sticky.  It spread like thick tar than butter.  It wouldn't lighten my colours at all it just disappeared into them.  All in all, a very frustrating paint to work with.  

So, this week, with my titanium stash looking very depleted and no sign of the postman with my fresh supply, I decided to give zinc another chance, but this time, I decided not to use it in place of titaniu, but to embrace its qualities (if I could unlock them!).  

When I paint for myself, I like to paint loose, with texture.  Zinc white, I've found, gives great texture.  Its thick and tends to hold its form when applied generously.  When I used it before, I became very frustrated with the fact that it doesn't lighten colour, barely at all.  When you mix it,  it only slightly varies the colour tone, but no where near as strong as titanium white.  However, with my flower paintings this week, that very slight colour tonal change was perfect to capture the delicate tones of a flowers petals, so that's what I used it for, subtlety.  It worked!  I got that and texture.  

Zinc white, as opposed to Titanium white, is very transparent, which means when mixed with colour the pigment isn't strong enough to overpower the colour pigment, resulting in only a slight difference.  Titanium white holds its own and is highly opaqu.  When mixing with colour, it lightens instantly, but is of a smoother consistency so it's harder to get texture, without mixing in some moulding paste or a thickening agent of some kind.  So having been rather harshly against using zinc white, I've discovered it's place in my art and taken it out of self isolation 😄.  

This is why it's so important for an artist, no matter how experienced, to take time out of the usual schedule of work, to experiment.  I've done some of my best work this week and feel more accomplished for it.  

So, don't just go for the one trusted white you've always used, get a different one and see what you can do with it.