Ultramarine Blue or French Ultramarine Blue?

I got asked just this week by a learner what was the difference between Ultramarine Blue paint and French Ultramarine Blue?

The short answers is not a great deal.  In the early 19th century the cost of ultramarine made from lapis lazuli was much higher than any of the other pigments, so much so that some artists did not use much blue in their work if any. 

French Ultramarine Blue
French Ultramarine Blue

Two French chemists discovered some blue residue in a soda furnace one day and wondered if this could be developed into a blue paint to replace the costly ultramarine pigment.  After lots of development work an alternative was developed which was cheaper and soon came into production.  In order to differentiate it from the lapis lazuli it was called ‘French’ Ultramarine.

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How Can I See Colour?

Colour is a whole new area in drawing and painting which sometimes for some complete beginners I think is best left until they have developed some basic drawing skills.  Seeing colour is quite a skill because colour changes depending on changes created by lighting and reflected light.

There is no real easy answer to seeing colour, it takes lots of practice in observation. Learning colour mixing is very important for seeing colour and understanding the minor differences between a ‘warm orange’ and a ‘cool orange’.  Often when we start painting, colours just look like one colour and seeing the differences in variation is challenging.

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