Volume 19, Number 2 .... May 1997

Book Reviews


by Michael Wilcox.

THE WILCOX GUIDE TO THE BEST WATERCOLOR PAINTS, first published in 1991, is now in its second edition. Introduced by Debbie Hess Norris to the Photographic Materials Group at the 1992 AIC meeting in Buffalo, it has become for me a reference as indispensable as my copy of Gettens and Stout.

The WILCOX GUIDE is divided into sections by color. Each color section is broken into three parts. The first part is a brief history of various pigment sources. The second part is identification of current pigments and dyes used in the manufacture and mixing of contemporary watercolor paints and the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) light fastness results of these. The third part is a "color comparison index" of each commercial tube watercolor product sampled. The Guide provides the manufacturer, grade of paint line (artist, student), product identification number, grade name (colormen's name), pigment color, pigment content, whether health information is provided, ASTM light fastness results, and overall rating as to handling, performance, and reliability (this last, Wilcox's personal opinion) are given.

Many of us have studied pigments and feel we are educated consumers. We buy products from established companies feeling we have insured quality. However, one basic fact is overlooked: Common trade names (the colormen's names) on paints do not necessarily indicate the true pigment content of the paint. Increased federally required product labeling has recently improved the situation, but how many of you remember that "natural iron oxide (PBr7)" is burnt umber, or that burnt umber varies in color by how hot it has been, well, burnt? PBr7 is a very stable pigment and also the quot;Color Index Name" for raw sienna, raw umber, burnt umber, and burnt sienna. Which one is in the product you are buying?

Some examples from the Guide: "Van Dyke Brown" is historically a fugitive pigment, the "Van Dyke Brown" sold by Winsor and Newton in its Cotman line 676 (338) is actually PBr7; "Crimson Lake, 341" by Lefranc & Bourgeois (aren't "lakes" supposed to be fugitive) is Quinacridone Violet (PV19), another stable color; and finally "Raw Sienna" in Winsor and Newton's Artist's Grade, Talen's Rembrandt Artist's Grade, and Lefranc & Bourgeois Linel Extra-Fine Artist's Grade, are all actually the pigment, yellow ochre. However Horadam Schmincke Siena Natur/Raw Sienna is listed as being true raw sienna.

WILCOX also helpfully points out student grade paints that are as good as the more expensive artist's grade, which can result in significant savings.

The limitations of this book are those of the testing of any proprietary product: The content of the paint tested may change without notice, perhaps even by distribution date of the book. Therefore, the book is a dated reference. Also, this research is presented by one (seemingly independent) person and has not been corroborated by another testing facility (to the best of my knowledge). The book is a reference tool to be used with discretion; a starting point for choosing quality commercial paints for inpainting and toning.

As stated in the book, "This book will be updated on a regular basis as changes take place within the art materials industry. ....Future titles in the series will cover other media such as oils, acrylics, and gouache....All proceeds from the sale of these products [the Wilcox series of books and palette] will go towards further research." THE WILCOX GUIDE TO THE BEST WATERCOLOR PAINTS costs around $25.00 and is available directly from Artways USA, P. O. Box 396, Rockport, MA 01966, tel: 800-783-9590; fax: 508-546-7141, or from local specialized art or book stores.

Reviewed by Stephanie Watkins


A Guidebook to Museums, Historic Houses, Libraries, Special Collections, Botanical Gardens, and Zoos in Los Angeles County, by Borislav Stanic.

Museon Publishing, Beverly Hills, CA, 1996,
ISBN: 1-889224-01-4,267 pages, 5 1/2 x 9, 800 b & w photos; maps; plans; index. Price: $19.95, paperbound.

The author of this lively and well-organized book begins with ICOM's definition of a museum as "any permanent institution which conserves and displays for purposes of study, education and enjoyment collections of objects of cultural or scientific significance", and takes off.

He lists 260 places of interest in the Los Angeles area, with something guaranteed to amaze and amuse even the most knowledgeable Angeleno. Besides the expected, there's the Finnish Folk Art Museum, the Museum of Musical Instruments, the Santa Ana Botanic Garden (one of the first experimental gardens built over a garbage dump), the largest privately owned Cadillac collection in the world, The Los Angeles Police Academy Rock Garden, the American Society of Cinematographers Museum, and on and on.

All the essential information is provided - addresses, phone numbers, hours, directions, admission prices, handicapped access, detailed maps, floor and garden plans - grouped into 16 geographical regions, complete with Thomas Guide locations. Furthermore, there are 11 useful indexes, allowing one to reference sites by type of collection, free days, activities, etc. Each page averages four small black and white photographs, of excellent quality. (Even an armchair traveler could enjoy this book.) There are, undoubtedly, inaccuracies somewhere in the 267 pages, and information like this inevitably becomes dated, such as the section on the Getty, but these are quibbles.

The author, who has a background in photography and art history, spent two years preparing the book. "I never intended to write a book on LA's museums," says Stanic. "It just occurred naturally as I realized how many institutions there were that even natives didn't know about."

reviewed by Carolyn Tallent

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