AnneLawsonArt Botanic Art My art work

Cadmium red

I have only recently added cadmium red to my palette, previously using Windsor red as my warm red. My recent rose is the first painting where I have experimented with it.

The cadmium pigments were part of the range of pigments that came into use during the 19th century, as a result of the Industrial Revolution. The Impressionists and other artists loved their richness. Monet used the cadmium colours, and I presume that he used cadmium red in this vibrant work.

Claude Monet Autumn Effect at Argenteuil [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Windsor and Newton is the leading paint brand, and on their website they describe cadmium red as:

…… a very strong, warm and opaque red and in the early part of the 20th century became a natural replacement for the distinctive but toxic vermilion.

The article goes on to say, with a safety message further down:

The production of modern, high performance cadmium red is an expensive and lengthy process requiring only the purest raw materials to produce the best possible colour.

Transforming the cadmium metal into a usable pigment means it undergoes several carefully controlled chemical reactions and procedures using various ingredients including mineral acids, sodium sulphide flakes, water, and selenium. Towards the end of the process heating takes place to create the pigment and it is in this heating process that the quality and hue of the final pigment begins to form. The emerging pigment is then ground down into tiny particles – these grinding processes affect the way the pigment interacts with light. Fine particles have a good diffused reflection and produce a colour that is very strong and vibrant.


Cadmium itself is a heavy metal and is toxic but cadmium pigments are not classified as dangerous for use in line with EC classification. The level of soluble cadmium in the pigments is so low that no hazard warnings are needed and they pose no greater risk after swallowing or breathing in than other pigment types. Cadmium pigments are restricted for certain applications but this restriction does not apply to artists’ colours.

The part about the EU is interesting, as apparently the use of cadmiums in paints are under review, and may be withdrawn.

I did a colour chart of sorts to work out my tonal values. (Note to self: more attention to the colours in the ext rose!)

First wash on the lips of the petals, with my version of a colour chart. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)

The finished first wash.

(Photo and image copyright: Anne Lawson, 2016)

The final work (which has just been put into my Etsy shop)

The finished painting (Photo and image copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)

So, what did I find?

  • It was a much softer colour than I anticipated. However, I was using it as a wash, and colour in a wash dries lighter. As well, I was careful not to overdo the intensity and controlled the amount of pigment I was using. Another factor could be that it was brand of paint, Holbein, that was new to me. The same labelled paint can be quite different across brands. This was Cadmium Red Light which could be another factor.
  • I loved the softness of the rose, but it lacked oomph. The cad red wasn’t able to give me that, so I added a glaze of quinacridone magenta in parts. You can see it most clearly in the central shadow, just above the leaves. Also, it was difficult to get an intense dark.
  • I was pleased that red washes helped to cut back the intensity of the yellow that you can see in the middle photo. The glow is still there, but not quite the eerie alien glow it was before. That tells me that it is possible to fix up mistakes in watercolour!
  • I was delighted at how well the paint mixed on the paper. usually I make up a mixture of the paint I am going to use, and I did do this for the green. However I wanted to experiment with dropping in French ultramarine to darken the red. Often, on the damp paper I washed in the red, dropped in some French ultramarine and then more red over the top. I think it worked well. It allowed the watercolour to do its magic.
Letting watercolour work its magic! (Photo and image copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)

Yellow will be my next rose colour. I do very little work in yellow, which has a reputation as being a very difficult colour to paint. So, more learning ahead!

My art work Odds and Ends

Friday Afternoon

Before I blogged I was a teacher of primary aged children, aged from 5 to 12 years.  It was a job that I really enjoyed, obviously some days more than others! But one of the times I loved most was Friday afternoons.

The bell would ring at half past 3 and the children would be out the door. Somebody once described it ‘like a cork out of a champagne bottle’ and it is such an apt simile. Then the peace would descend. The energy generated by those 25 busy bodies would gradually dissipate, and I would be there in the stillness.

It was a time to potter around the room, tidying up after an active week, cleaning the tables, vaguely reflecting on the day’s happenings and mentally organising the things that needed deeper reflection. One of the tasks I loved to do was to sharpen the pencils, ready for Monday’s diary writing.

I would think about tidying my desk. That was always an impossible task, as there was a never ending supply of paper that needed to be dealt with. But it was Friday Afternoon and the This Should Have Been Done Yesterday pile could wait a while longer. Then I would look at my planning for the following week, pack a few things to take home, turn off the lights and lock the door. Friday Afternoon. Time to wander down to the pub for a few Friday Afternoon Drinks with friends.

I was thinking of that this afternoon. I was folding the washing, looking out the front window at the school over the road and I knew that the teachers over there would be glad that it’s Friday. The day has been sunny and still, peaceful, just right for a Friday Afternoon. So let me tidy up a few things here before I wander into the lounge room for Friday Afternoon Drinks. I might even sit outside with my glass of wine.

My last post was about Dads, and it seemed to resonate with you, stirring up some memories. Thank you for your comments, including those on Facebook. I thought I would copy the poem that the Snail of Happiness shared. It summed up so well what I was stumbling around to say.

A man lives for as long as we carry him inside us,
For as long as we carry the harvest of his dreams,
For as long as we ourselves live,
Holding memories in common, a man lives.
(Brian Patten)

I love that idea of ‘the harvest of his dreams’. I want to believe that I am still harvesting some of my Dad’s dreams.

And the second thing to tidy up is to tell you, very proudly, that I sold the rose painting that I painted in a recent workshop. I showed you its creation, and now it has flown off to the States! Let me boast a little more and say that it was the 90th painting that I have sold in my Etsy shop.

Now, let’s all raise a glass to Friday Afternoons. May they always be peaceful! Cheers!