One of the joys of working with oil paints is that, untouched, in their
original tubes, paints can last for decades and still stay fresh and vivid.
I’ve been given some old tubes of paint many of which must be over 30 years
old. They’re crusted on the outside and some of them still bear their
original price (70 pence!).

In and amongst the more familiar colours are several ‘lost’ colours which
can no longer be found in the catalogues.

The tube of Naples Yellow I found has been a joy to use. By the weight of
the paint it must be the original lead pigment, lead antimoniate, a pigment
that has more or less become impossible to find because of its toxicity.

It is a pale, opaque and almost chalky yellow which dries quickly to form a
lightfast paint film. You’ll still find it in most paint ranges but beware,
even in artist-quality paint ranges it’s probably a mix of other pigments –
not the same as my original 30 year old tube.

I use it for sunlight through trees, autumn leaves, winter grasses on the
high Pennine moorlands and as part of the flesh tint mix in portraits. I
only have a single tube, so let’s hope it lasts. Meanwhile I just need to
make sure I wash my hands after using it.

Loughrigg Tarn Painting by Lake District artist David Pott

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