by Jo York
Blockx are in that they are still hand-made in Belgium by a small family ﬁrm which is on its 5th generation of the Blockx family to produce paints and pigments for artists….they’ve been doing this since 1865. Salvador Dali, said about the founder, Jacques Blockx, “This man who never painted, will contribute more to the painters of tomorrow than all the modern painters together, will have accomplished”.
Key Features of Blockx:
• Blockx oil colours are made only from the best and purest pigments-they have a relatively limited colour range compared with other brands, but this is due to an absolute unwillingness to compromise on quality.
• Because of the highest quality pigments, all the colours in the range score 7 or 8 on the ‘blue wool’ lightfastness scale, which means they can be regarded as absolutely permanent. The Blue Wool test is the standard British test for lightfastness, and was originally developed for textile dyes, but is now used more widely-the highest possible scores are 7 or 8.
• For blacks, iron oxide and earth colours, paints are made up using top quality Linseed Oil. All other colours are made using very pure Poppy Seed Oil, which is preferable as it does not cause colours to ‘yellow’, wrinkle or become brittle with time.
• The resultant paints are exceptionally pure and ‘clean’, maintaining their freshness across the colour range for many, many years to come.
« In the picture above, you can see I tested a colour range of 13 colours, which make up a good introductory palette. I used from left to right above: Cadmium Red, Crimson Lake, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Naples Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber, Cobalt Blue, Indantherene Blue (One of my absolute favourite colours-really gorgeous rich, deep blue), Viridian, Mixed Green Deep, Payne’s Grey and Zinc White: semi opaque and therefore good for glazes and tints, and ﬁnally Titanium White-versatile, all-purpose white with excellent opacity, and the purest whitest white, which is great for highlights. »
« For this blog, I’ve been using the ILA tear-oﬀ palettes shown here, which come in a small and large size. Each one comes in a pad of 40 sheets of coated non-absorbent paper which is great for mixing either oils or acrylics. You can hold the palette pad in your hand whilst working, using the thumb hole, or lay them ﬂ at on a table next to your work, which I prefer. I found them really tough and durable actually, much more so than I expected. They stood up to loads of mixing with a palette knife without any problems, and the surface stayed perfect-I even found I could reactivate colour, by scraping away the dried outer layer and reworking the colour underneath. »
« In the samples above, the richness of Blockx colour comes over really well-all colours are heavily pigment loaded, creating strong rich colour that is so rewarding to work with! Blockx performs brilliantly with heavy impasto, and holds both brush and knife marks in a really satisfying way. »
Jo’s Top Tips
• Cover all work surfaces really well, using old paper, cardboard or newspaper. Keep some old rags for cleaning up and have plenty of paper towels to hand. Remove most of remaining paint from palettes, brushes etc…on the paper you’ve had covering your work surface-this makes cleaning up much easier to do.
• Clean brushes etc…with a white spirit type product. You can buy low odour versions which are really worth seeking out-my personal preference is Sansodor, which is highly eﬀ ective and also great for letting down oils. Complete the cleaning using warm soapy water.
• If you are new to oils, buy a small quantity of good quality oils rather than loads of poor ones to avoid frustration!! My limited palette here is a good starter selection.
• Experiment with working ‘alla prima’ or in one setting, while the paint is still wet, and also building layers following the ‘fat over lean principle’-this will give you a real feel for the medium and help you discover which method suits you best.
• Do try fast, instinctive sketches in oil colour-they are a brilliant way of building your skill and conﬁdence with the medium.
• Work on specialist Oil Paper for preparatory work and sketches.
To read the full article, and see Jo’s finished works, please visit the blog at www.joyorkart.co.uk