White is the most delicate of colours, quickly becoming dominated by any other. Take a pound of white pigment and add only a ¼ ounce of any other colour, and white will have yielded to reflect the tint of that other (In fact, most tubes of paint on the art store’s shelf have more white pigment in them than their labeled colour—using it as a filler and further demonstrating white’s deferential nature).

Despite its delicacy—or perhaps because of it—it is with white that we most clearly see the passing of time; as it yellows with age, or blackens under urban pollution, or reddens in the light of the setting sun. But, in its heart, white is rarely so effected by time: Strip the varnish, or apply soap to the grim, or come again in the morning, and white will once again demonstrate her original bright beauty.

When grinding a white pigment, it isn’t enough to just wipe the mulling-glass down, it’s necessary to grind it clean with sand. Only after this ritual is performed, will white contentedly rest by herself on glass. White is the most difficult pigment to have a long conversation with—always more interested in conversing with other colours than with the artist. And, while my instinct is to try to preserve her purity, this also reflects her most lovely quality: The ease in which she gives herself to others.

White is childlike, and I love seeing the earnest outpouring of herself towards her friends—even if in my heart I know I can’t truly be one of them.

Conestogo Shell White

By Symeon van Donkelaar | January 25th, 2012

I’ve been experimenting with creating a shell white from some mussel shells I found along the Conestogo River a couple of years back. With work beginning on some local-colour plant paintings, I again find myself in need a local white pigment … Shell White could be the answer: It has a long history of use…

Dundas: Galena to Flake White

By Symeon van Donkelaar | May 7th, 2008

This article is a series of journal entries from the 100 mile ART project, a project completed while artist-in-residence for the City of Cambridge in 2008. The goal of the project was to create a painting using only materials found or farmed within a 100-mile radius of Cambridge, Ont. Galena The last sample provided by Reiner…

Dundas: Celestite

By Symeon van Donkelaar | April 29th, 2008

In May, the LaFarge Quarry in Dundas will be open for a field trip to collectors associated with local gem and mineral clubs. I plan on attending this rock hounding opportunity, but Reiner has been good enough to provide me with some samples beforehand so that I can test certain minerals found at this location for their use as…