YInMn, an intriguingly cryptically named pigment, has amazed and excited industrialists and artists since it was accidentally discovered in 2009. A fascinating account describes how YInMn, (pronounced Yin-min), a blue pigment was accidentally created by chemists at Oregon State University, when Yttrium, Indium and Manganese were mixed with oxygen, producing an inorganic brilliant blue compound. Also identified as Oregon Blue or Mas Blue, after the name of the lead USU chemist, Mas Subramanian, YinMn is reported to be the first new blue colour discovered in two hundred years. Because the colour is durable and stable, even at extremely high heat, it was first used industrially for paints and coatings, and more recently has been used commercially. The colour inspired a new Crayola Crayon called “bluetiful,” as well as added to artists’ palettes a rich, intense, vibrant and brilliant new shade, in colour between Ultramarine and Cobalt Blue.
Making Blue Paint Blue pigments were originally made from minerals such as lapis lazuli, cobalt and azurite while dyes were made from plants, such as woad in Europe and indigo in Asia and Africa. To make blue paint lapis lazuli and azurite were crushed, then ground into powder, then mixed with a quick-drying agent such as egg yolk to make tempera paints, or with slow-drying oil, like linseed oil, added to make oil paints. Watercolour was made by adding gum arabic and other additives to pigment. Before commercial manufacture of paints artists made their own paints in their own workshops, grinding their own pigments and mixing them with additives. Today most blue pigments and dyes are made by a chemical process in commercial laboratories.
Of concern to users, blue pigments unfortunately have detrimental health and environmental effects and are not durable. We have heard of the health declines and poisoning of artists such as Turner and Van Gogh purportedly caused or exacerbated by their paints. Cobalt Blue, Prussian Blue, Ultramarine Blue and Azurite all pose some toxic risks for painters and many artists wear protective gloves while painting, particularly when using these blues. By contrast, YInMn Blue is chemically stable, does not fade and is non-toxic.
Availability and Cost YInMn pigment remains extremely rare and very expensive and most artists’ paint companies have been discouraged from including it in their product lines; one supplier apparently prices a 40 ml tube of the blue paint at $179.40. Golden, Kremer and Shepherd paint labs are developing YInMn product lines. Golden Artists Colours is offering heavy body acrylic, oil and watercolour paint made with YInMn pigment. The colour is not yet available but one can join a notification list by contacting the Golden Customer Service Team and Custom Lab.
Unfortunately, the stunning and appealing colour has been seized by the black market who use illicit pigment to produce copy-cat paints, milling the dry pigment into an acrylic emulsion. Be wary of low-priced paints claiming to be YInMn Blue, or a trade name that has the ring of the pigment name, perhaps offered through arts and craft on-line or discount suppliers.
YInMn Pigment Blue Bird
Connecticut artist Michael Rothman produced his own blue paint by hand-milling dry YInMn pigment in an emulsion resin and painted this imagined 47 million-year-old bird believed to have been the oldest to have blue plumage. The colour is astoundingly intense and perhaps serves as an inspiration for pictures we may one day produce when this paint is ours to use, too.
More Colours to Come Following the surprise and success of YInMn Blue chemists have expanded their research and have synthesized a range of new pigments including oranges, purples, turquoise’s and greens. Elusive so far is red, an ongoing challenge to create.
The band of enthusiasts who gathered together in 1909, fired by a determination to encourage artistic and cultural development of Victoria in the form the Island Arts Club, included some prominent figures in the community's history. Such names as Pemberton, Crease, O’Reilly, Maclure and Carr roll easily off the tongue. Yet one that has never been subjected to biographical excesses is the lady who hosted these initial meetings and seems to have played a significant part as one of the moving spirits-- if not the moving spirit -- in the coordination of the group.
We do know that the understated Mary Bampfylde Daniell was born in Devonshire, England, from where she moved to London to pursue her artistic interests under the tuition of members of the Royal Academy, in which she was accepted as a probationer, and in due course admitted as a student. She exhibited her work in the capital from 1898 to the time of her emigration to Canada and her arrival in BC in 1905.
With a partner, she started an advertising and illustration company under the title of Rochfort and Daniell. She also began to paint local scenes and people, and was soon accepted into the developing Vancouver art community. She initially exhibited with the Studio Club, then the focus of local art, in 1907, and then with the BC Society of Fine Arts, formed in 1909, of which she was a charter member. During this period in Vancouver she exhibited in the company of such fellow artists as Samuel Maclure, John Kyle and Emily Carr, soon to be companions in a new enterprise.
The scene had shifted to Victoria by October 1909 when the publication This Week reported: “A very representative meeting was held… at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. C. Bampfylde Daniell, when a large number of Victorians prominent in artistic circles were present, and the unanimous resolution was passed to form a Society to be called the Vancouver Island Society of Arts and Crafts. Mrs. C. Bampfylde Daniell was elected Honorary Secretary and it is proposed to call a more extensive meeting at an early date.”
And so the story unfolded. After a series of meetings hosted at the Bampfylde Danniel home at 609 Michigan Street, a residence built in 1860 and demolished in 1925, the outcome was the Island Arts Club which was comprised of 56 charter members. In a subsequent article in Opportunities Magazine in 1911, Mary expressed her thinking behind this project: “It has long been held as a matter of regret among lovers of art in Victoria that artists come to this city, but do not remain, and it is to create some feeling of friendliness and goodwill toward them that the Island Arts Club has been started.”
She was able to report that the Club boasted 80 members after its first year, and paid tribute to its first President, J.J. Shallcross, for using his local influence in the vigorous promotion of this new venture.
Mary’s subsequent involvement with this new body seems to have been relatively short, with contributions to just three of its annual shows – in 1910, 1912 and 1913. However, what she went on to say was to prove prophetic: “The Island Arts Club has come to stay, and it is hoped that it will receive the support and encouragement due to it from all lovers of the beautiful.”
Indeed, it has, and after more than a century of fluctuating fortunes, we’re still alive and well.
Just after World War II, a young grade school pupil who liked to paint was set up by her mother to take private oil painting lessons with a well-established Victoria artist. She travelled from home in Oak Bay to Tolmie Avenue, off Quadra Street, on Saturday mornings in the summer where instruction took place in a back yard studio.
This was all a big adventure for a shy young girl who recalls her teacher as a quiet, studious and conscientious gentleman who methodically taught the basic approach to oil painting. She was shown the various colours, their place in order on the palette, the use of oil in mixing the paint and turpentine for cleaning the brushes, and introduced to still life subjects such as fruit and jars. Though initially feeling somewhat intimidated by this rather reserved individual, the young pupil came to like him and appreciate his abilities as artist and teacher. She also got the impression that he was of modest means and made to struggle hard to make a comfortable living.
The young student was our own Ann Nolte, and her teacher was a Scotsman of some repute by the name of William (Will) Menelaws. The experience, along with the later influence of such luminaries as Ina Uhthoff and Arthur Lismer, laid the basis for Ann’s development into a distinguished painter of landscapes and portraits.
Menelaws, born in Edinburgh Scotland in 1883, was a product of the Edinburgh College of Art, and a gold-medal winner at the Royal Scottish Academy. He also spent several years studying architecture. Moving to Canada, he joined the Island Arts and Crafts Society (IACS) and contributed to its annual exhibition every year, with one exception, from 1912 to 1940. During these years he also exhibited at the Seattle Art Museum and the BC Society of Fine Arts.
A key member of the Society’s Sketch Club component, Menelaws was a prolific and versatile artist in pen and ink, watercolour, oils and tempera. He even ventured into impressionism during the 1920s, but he is perhaps best remembered for his fine portraiture and his landscapes. He became well known and highly respected as a teacher, both from his studio and in Victoria area schools, notably at Glenlyon from 1938 to 1954 and for thirty years at Oak Bay Senior High, to which the Victoria Sketch Club later donated an annual art prize in his name.
In the 1940s Menelaws became part of the group, which included several other IASC artists, seeking to sponsor an art gallery in Victoria, an ambition which came to fulfilment in 1951.
Although maintaining his links with the Victoria Sketch Club, his teaching duties limited his exhibition time after WWII. However, his one-man show at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in 1962, prompted Colin Graham, Director of the Gallery, to dub him “Dean of Victoria artists.”
He was awarded life membership of the Victoria Sketch Club in 1964, the year he departed to live with relatives in Port Angeles, Washington. He died there two years later.
Mike's watercolour painting was published in the English language The Art of Watercolour Magazine published in France. The 40th issue includes Mike's painting, voted in top 100! The scene and location are in Mount Douglas Park.
Here's a link to the competition rules for future Art of Watercolour Magazine submissions, similar to the one Mike entered last Fall.