Thursday, July 11, 2013

Tech Talk: Lightfastness tests – finale


full view of test card at 6 months
sun-exposed half on left


same card – sun-exposed half moved to right

This is the last post for the lightfastness tests of Mission Gold watercolors that I began in mid-January.  For the last month, I had the sun-exposed card in a window that got much more sun and there was even more fading to the dodgy colors.  As I explained in detail last month, the fading was not unexpected because the pigments used in those colors are rated as poor to fugitive.

Since I posted my previous update, I have had several emails from Dennis Kapp, the chairman of the board of the Martin/F.Weber company, which distributes the Mijello Mission Gold watercolors in the U.S.  Needless to say, he was not happy to see my negative review and said he wished I'd told them about my tests so he could have given me newer, more lightfast colors.  Fortunately, I kept the email correspondence I'd had with his employee, starting with the sample set I received in mid-September, in which I'd pointed out that there were problems with the pigments used in the line.  Although she told me in early January that they were beginning to look at lightfastness matters and would update me, I never heard another word until I received Mr. Kapp's first email in late June.

According to Mr. Kapp, Mijello has reformulated 50 of the 90 colors in the line after receiving feedback at a watercolor society opening last year that there might be a lightfastness problem. (I strongly suspect that the feedback to which he is referring was set in motion by my comments to a watercolorist friend during the National Watercolor Society reception in late September last year.  My friend brought my concerns to the attention of a watercolorist friend of his -- a woman who had been distributing sample sets of Mission Gold at the NWS reception. But perhaps somebody else also expressed alarm about the pigments.)

In his first email, Mr. Kapp listed the pigment changes to the paints that I tested. I've checked them against the lists of reliable pigments, and they are all acceptable.  He also explained that they are creating two versions of some colors -- those labelled as "bright" will be less lightfast.

Mr. Kapp tells me that they have been shipping the newly formulated colors to their dealers for about 60 days now and have instructed their dealers to give replacements for any of the fugitive colors, even if the tubes have been partially used.  

I applaud the company for taking this step, but I have to caution you to be careful. Dick Blick is the only major art supply house that is selling Mission Gold, as far as I can determine.  There is no indication that they are selling a reformulated line and the product numbers are identical to the sample tubes I received last fall.  The local art store that carried Mission Gold removed the product after seeing my lightfastness tests last month. They said nothing about being offered the newly reformulated paint that has supposedly been going out to dealers for the past two months.  If you decide to buy this line of watercolors, ask questions and do some research before purchasing.

Here are some ways to check on pigments: both Michael Wilcox's The Wilcox Guide to the Best Watercolor Paints and Hilary Page's Guide to Watercolor Paints are available through online booksellers, although both are now somewhat out of date -- quite a few new pigments have been added to the world of art since they were published.  I also know of two websites that deal with pigments: Handprint and Art is Creation -- Handprint is chock full of information, but the pigment charts on Art is Creation are much easier to read.

I hope you have found this series of posts instructive and helpful. I strongly feel that artists must demand quality materials -- to accept less is to dishonor our time and talent.

12 comments:

  1. Thank you for alerting artists! I hope they do reformulate and provide a quality product. I will be sticking with my old standbys!

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    1. I have my long-time faves too, Carrie, but for the sake of other artists, I also hope Mission Gold comes up with a more reliable product.

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  2. Thanks Detective Beck!
    I'm sure the company is not pleased with you right now, but it should help them in the long run, as they will know that serious artists expect quality in their art supplies.
    We recently had a guest speaker at GCWS who talked about pigments and the major watercolor paint suppliers (did not mention Mission Gold, which I had also not heard of). He brought with him a painting from the mid-1800's that had faded so much it was hard to tell what it was supposed to be - a real eye opener as to lightfastness of pigments and how incredibly important that is.

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    1. Thanks for the support, Deb!! I've been interested in this since college, when the prof had us use liquid dyes (much like Dr. Martin liquid watercolors) because he like their brilliance and the fact that you didn't need to learn anything about the handling properties of various colors. But they also faded to grey within a few months of being on a wall, even when they were on an interior wall with no strong light. Disappointing when you displayed your own work, but a real bummer to people who paid good money to own one of them.

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  3. Hey, Chris, kudos from a fellow pigment junkie, i too appreciate your sleuthing. i find Bruce MacEvoy's handprint.com site just invaluable...it's saved me tons of money. have never tried, or even seen, Mijello's paints, but have had the same experience with Shin Han paints from Korea, also at Dick Blick. Very inexpensive, and some are wonderful, but many are made with inferior and/or fugitive pigments. in watercolor, as in so much of life, one tends to get what one pays for. thanks again!

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    1. Thanks for the note, Joan! I haven't tried Shin Han, but Mijello watercolor is not inexpensive. I hope the reformulated colors are really as lightfast as they claim. It's a sad fact that some of the most brilliant colors fresh out of the tube in many lines are the least lightfast in the long run.

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  4. What brand did you test? I like the brand name with the pigment because according to handprint, some brands of the same pigment have proven to sometimes be more light fast with other properties and characteristics as well.
    Thanks for sharing this.

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    1. Perhaps you did not read the text of my blog post. It states very clearly what brand of paint I was testing -- Mission Gold. The lightfastness of pigments can be affected by the medium -- some pigments are perfectly fine in oil or acrylic, but will fade if used in watercolors. But the same pigment used by different brands of watercolor will generally behave the same way -- if the pigment is reliable, it won't fade and if it isn't, addditives will not improve its lightfastness.

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  5. Hi Chris,
    I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate the time you are putting into testing a product that is not forthcoming in regard to permanence. Apparently there is a reason. I also wonder if you have ever tested any of the Holbein products such as Opera which I stopped using years ago. They do not make it easy to find permanence info on their site but claimed to have replaced it. I
    I like you work very much and will check in from time to time. Keep up the good work. Thank you.

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    1. Thanks, Ken. Glad to hear my work is helpful to artists.

      Mission Gold has supposedly replaced much of the line with pigments that are reliable, but I have not tested any of those. However, the manufacturer decided, for whatever reason, to keep the original colors too. They have some way of naming them that's supposed to differentiate them -- but the product names are confusing: they use "bright" and "compose" and "permanent" without any indication of what those names really mean. If you go to their website, they do have a chart showing the lightfastness ratings, but I have no idea who tested the paints and what their criteria were. The worst rating was "less lightfast" -- but none of the paints were given that rating. Bright Rose, Bright Violet, and Opera came in one step above that as "limited lightfast" -- leading me to take all the ratings with a grain of salt. It's my understanding that the "bright" colors are the same as those I tested and Rose and Violet were among the worst performers.

      I haven't tested Holbein Opera -- and have never used it. For my purposes, the permanent rose pigments from Winsor Newton or Daniel Smith have been bright enough. It is often difficult to get product information online or from catalog sellers -- the generous assumption would be that they just don't see a need for that.

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