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More V for Vermilion & the “Beads on a Duck’s Back”

I just spoke with the Michael Harding himself.  First impression: a  most affable and generous gentleman.  Here’s what I asked… and what I’ve learned.  Note: I’m paraphrasing our conversation.  I would hate to try and quote him only to have someone call him and say “but I read some where that you said the following blah, blah, blah.”  He actually says quite a lot on his own website, so go there to get the words direct from the horse’s mouth.

Q: How quick will smudging the Vermilion kill me?
A: As with anything toxic, avoid contact.  The key thing with Vermilion (Mercuric Sulphide) is to avoid ingestion.  Skin MIGHT be enough of a barrier… but I’m thinking of using what I’m inclined to call a “finger condom” to see if the reduction of touch greatly affects my manipulation of edge.

Q: What to do about “beading”?  (This is what happens when you try and apply paint with your medium and it doesn’t stick… but instead looks like beads of water on a duck’s back.)
A:  Try cutting an onion and rubbing it on the surface.  Will do!  This response amused me as I have lately been using a potato.  The potato has seemed to work, but I am as yet undecided on the quality of surface it leaves.  (Note to self: just used it on the early stages of “Delfina.”)  If the onion doesn’t do it, Mr. Harding suggests the application of an egg yolk, only the yellow part; pass from hand to hand in order to remove the white part of the yolk.

Q: Is there a genuine odorless turp that I can use?
A: He mentioned W&N Sansodor, but by no means was it a mark of approval.  He noted that anytime you depart from the real thing, you’ve compromised the substance.  I have Sansodor… but no little about it.  Will research further.

Our discussion ended on color.  For flesh tones he suggested I try the Vermilion with a Yellow Ochre Deep (a semi-transparent color), and any lead white.  He also mentioned his Trans Red Oxide.  Final note on Vermilion: he says despite rumors, he has not had any success in “blackening” the Vermilion, i.e., it is his belief that it is a stable color.

2 replies on “More V for Vermilion & the “Beads on a Duck’s Back””

“anytime you depart from the real thing, you’ve compromised the substance”,…….
Odorless mineral spirits are a great substitute for turpentine unless you are dissolving natural resins like damar or mastic in which case OMS is not strong enough and you have to use something like turpentine. I’m not sure what Mr.Harding means by “compromised substance”. MH is a great paintmaker and I have the vermilion, lead whites, and genuine naples. Good stuff!

Ed, thanks so much for the comment!

For about the past year and a half (maybe two) I’ve only been using walnut oil (M. Graham) as my medium. My initial reasons for doing so had to do with a desire to reduce the fumes in my studio… but I must say I’ve gotten along rather well with it. I don’t miss the turp or the Damar in my medium. Of course, in the event I wanted to cut the medium (or add other substances that might require a turp mixed in), I was wondering what odorless options I had, hence my question to Mr. Harding. I think what he is saying is: if the recipe requires turp, use turp.

I’ve just begun to test the waters with the Vermilion, but I would swear the color I get just by mixing Harding’s Flake White with the Vermilion comes uncannily close to some flesh tones I’ve seen in the Prado. I’m guessing with a little Ivory Black and perhaps some of that Yellow Ochre Deep I’ll be well on my way.

How has your experience been with the Vermilion? Do you avoid contact with it or do you just wash your hands well after use? Also, does it go well with the Genuine Naples?

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