Exploring the whites used in oil painting. The Stack Lead White discussion

Know your whites if you want to control your color and temperatures. The single most important color I use is white. This is a surprise to most people but it's true. Because white is so important to me I use only the very best, highly pigmented and expensive whites. I will pay for reproducible and dependable expensive white because white is in nearly every color I mix. I am writing this post today to give you some insight in how seriously I take whites.

Most recently I bought the hand made Michael Harding's Stack Lead White. It cost about $65.00 for 40ml. tube. Michael Harding has been on a mission to reproduce a pre-industrial lead white hoping to replicate the whites used by old masters.

The consistency of this paint makes it stand out. Michael Harding writes "using this historic (handmade) technique every particle of Stack Lead White is randomly different." The thixotropic  nature truly makes this white stand a part from all other whites. "Thixotropy occurs in paint ...which flows freely when stirred and reverts to a gel-like state on standing." - Brittanica.com

Quicksand is a good example of a thixotropic mixture. (How to escape quicksand). 

The texture of Stack Lead White is indeed lumpy, random and "old" looking and difficult to squeeze from the tube. Squeeze it out and a very lumpy stiff paint with a little almost clear liquid emerges.On mixing this lumpy paint you'll see it turn from lumpy to smooth, to creamy and then to syrupy. Michael Harding claims that it's this very manipulative, changing characteristic that gives the Stack Lead White it's value. 

I have not done enough experimentation with the textures to decide whether this major characteristic of Stack Lead White is of value to my painting. It is fun to play with.

As for mixing into other pigments, I have found that this warm lead white does have a curious effect on the colors; it cools the color and grays the color. I'll admit it's not apparent in this digital shot here but the eye sees it. The dulling is not like the dulling effect you get with Titanium. This something stranger;  like a microscopic bit of black has been mixed in. Sometimes this dulling is a good thing. So I'll go with that quality in certain circumstances. This is not my "go to" white that would replace all the other whites. And so it goes.

Next week Cremetz and Flake White.


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