Last week I had an appointment in Manhattan and I used this appointment as an excuse to buy art toys and visit Blick’s Art Supply and Kremer’s Pigments.
This year of pandemic I have made three journeys into Manhattan to buy art supplies. Most stores were closed in the first few months but in July the art supply stores began to open. I called ahead and mapped out a journey from SoHo to Herald Square.
I have used my pandemic quarantine time to paint and draw. The media I work with are sumi ink, pencil drawing and egg tempera. Each has their place in my expression. Egg tempera is special for the chemistry of it and the vibrancy of color.
Over the past few years I have made occasional trips to Kremer’s Pigments on 29th St. to buy powdered pigments. The powdered pigments come in baggies and look like the baggies of marijuana one might have bought in the 1970’s. The pigments come in all colors and some are also sold in jars.
Kremer’s sells various types of chemistry to mix with the pigments, paint brushes and other art tools.
I started by purchasing just a few color pigments to use with my sumi ink paintings. Sumi ink provides a strong black and a zillion shades of grey. One light bright color such as yellow ochre can offset the monochromatic color scheme with a complimentary eye-catching pop.
I also picked up various earth pigments, starting with a limited palette. My artist training focused on printmaking so working with a limited palette appeals to me.
It did not taken long before I embarked on supplying myself with a full spectrum of color pigments.
Most of the pigments come in baggies. At home, I transfer the pigments into plastic spice jars and carefully peel the sticker labels from the baggies and paste them to my jars.
In addition to the earth pigments such as umber, ocher and earth greens, I have acquired many cobalt and cadmium-based colors – intense reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues and violets. The earth pigments are not hard to handle but many pigments are toxic and I have to work carefully with them.
Because the pigments are the straight stuff, I can add them to various types of binders to create all sorts of painting mediums. Kremer’s supplies items such as gum arabic to make watercolors, additives for egg tempera, oil paint or inks such as ox gall and walnut oil, linseed oil, waxes, shellacs, and crystallized gums to make varnish.
The store sales assistants are a little shy because of Covid-19 but they are really quite helpful and knowledgeable about different types of chemistry that artists might use.
It is quite an experience to come in person into the store and see the pigments on the shelf in baggies. I like to come and see. Kremer’s offered classes in the spring on how to make stuff or do certain art tasks but I don’t think classes are available at this time.
Because of having to close at the start of the pandemic and the vagaries of supply and demand, some supplies are often out and on reorder. Kremer’s also has a website where pigments can be ordered over the Internet.
Working with dry pigments is a taste and experience that is not for everyone but for those of us who really delve into the chemistry and science of making art, Kremer’s in New York City is a real joy.