Category Archives: Technique

Cadmium Vermilion/Cadmium Scarlet (PR 108)

Cadmium Vermilion/Cadmium Scarlet (PR – 108)

Information: opaque, lightfast
Handling Characteristics: Saturated red with a shift towards orange when used purely and when mixed with other pigments.

Cadmium Vermilion is one of my favorite warm opaque reds to use. I feel as if I use this color in all my paintings in some form or another.

Like Cadmium red medium it mixes well with other colors, either in two color or three color mixtures, and can make beautiful skin tones. Personally, I find cadmium vermilion to be essential for glowing flesh tones.

Cadmium Vermilion is also important for mixing a variety of grays, when mixed with blues or greens the grays of silver and pewter are captured.

My experience with Cadmium Vermilion, sometimes called Cadmium Scarlet (PR 108), comes from using three different manufacturers’ versions. Each version is a range of warm, orange-ish, medium opaque red. You’ll see from my swatch card that in the fourth row I have included Gamblin’s Cadmium Red Light (PR 108) also. This is because Gamblin’s Cad. Red Light really falls in to the same spectrum as the Cadmium Vermilion examples.

Row 1:
Name: Cadmium Vermilion (PR 108)
Manufacturer: Blue Ridge Oil Colors
My thoughts: Of this range of warm reds, Blue Ridge,s Cadmium Vermilion is one of my favorite oil colors to use. The first reason is because it is almost a spot on color of the red petals of an oriental poppy. Then also because it is so lush, and I particularly like how the color shifts to a pretty delightful salmon pink tone when mixed with whites. Also with this specific oil color, if you mix it down to a very, very light tint you are able to re-create the Old Holland color, Brilliant Yellow-Reddish, a color I used to always keep out on my palette until I realized it is so easy to mix with lead white and cadmium vermilion.

Row 2:
Name: Cadmium Vermilion (PR 108)
Manufacturer: Williamsburg Handmade Oil Colors
My thoughts: the Williamsburg version of Cadmium Vermilion is another favorite of mine, it starts out more red than the Blue Ridge version, thus as it tints down it maintains a pink-ish quality, however there is still enough of a touch of orange in this color that makes it nice to work with.

Row 3:
Name: Cadmium Scarlet (PR 108)
Manufacturer: Winsor and Newton Artists Oil Colors
My thoughts: During my first years of learning how to paint with oils, the Winsor and Newton Cadmium Scarlet was my orangey-red I kept out on my palette. It was the one my mentor, Danni Dawson, used and I did not switch until I began to be curious about other paint manufacturers and what they offered. After trying the Blue Ridge and Williamsburg versions, I quit using the Winsor and Newton one.

Row 4:
Name: Cadmium Red Light (PR 108)
Manufacturer: Gamblin
My thoughts: I have not explored as much with the Gamblin color on this swatch card, however because I had some of this paint I wanted to place it in its place in relationship to my other colors.

Overall, it is a tossup for me in whether I choose to use the Blue Ridge or Williamsburg oil color. For several years I have been only using the Blue Ridge version, however when they had the fire in their factory a year ago and I ran low on my cadmium vermilion, I began using the Williamsburg version a bit more. I find if I start a painting with one version, I prefer to finish the painting with that version. I don’t switch back and forth between manufacturers when painting, especially if I am using the cadmium vermilion for flesh tones, it just becomes too tricky.

Here is an image of my original swatches I did of the cadmium reds and oranges before I began to make the graduated swatches.


These articles about my color palette and the oil colors I use are the result of my experience and continued exploration. I have purchased all oil colors on my own and I have not received any reimbursement from the mentioned paint manufacturers or art supply stores. The usefulness and perceived attributes expressed here in these articles are my personal opinions.

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My Full-Color Palette

Today I am starting a series of articles that will focus on the individual oil colors that make up the full-color palette I use on a regular basis.

You may wonder why I have so many colors on my palette and why I do not use a limited color palette. This is because I have chosen to paint with oils in the colorist tradition of striving to capture the visual impression of color and light, versus focusing mostly on depicting form and letting color play a minor role in my artistic expression. By using the colorist methodology of painting, I have found that I need the most saturated version of the colors available, I then have the option to desaturate my mixtures as the situation in the painting warrants. Some of the oil colors on my palette are pure pigments and others are convenience mixtures.

Let me share a bit about my painting process. I use layers of color tints (one or two colors mixed with white) to build up the three-dimensional illusion of space, mass, and value in my paintings. Often I start with pure, intensely saturated color tints, and then refine and desaturate these initial layers of color as the painting evolves by laying additional layers of paint on top of previous layers. I look for color compliments and ways to enhance the visual impression of color and light in my paintings, however I also strive to always maintain a strong feeling of form in my work. This means that modeling and getting the values accurate is equally important to me as it is for accurately capturing the color passages in my paintings.

Because when you’re painting you are using a physical thing, pigment suspended in linseed oil or another medium, some colors do not mix like they are expected to if you follow the rules of color theory and because of that some pigments/oil colors are better than others when working and interacting with other oil colors.

As part of my studio practice I believe in exploration and experimenting with my results and testing what different oil colors interact with others. In this past year I have decided to go back, really investigate the oil colors I use on a regular basis. In the beginning of this investigation, I just painted out a pure from the tube swatch next to a 50/50 mixture of the paint with white and labeled them. Quickly I realized this was not providing me with enough information that I was seeking, so I began to make graduated scaled swatches of each color.

These upcoming articles are my way of organizing and listing out all of the relevant information I know about them. All information is derived from my own experience. I will also share tips and opinions about why certain pigments have a constant place on my daily palette. I will be comparing paints from different manufacturers and I’ll explain which one I prefer and why.

This is going to be a long series of articles and I hope to post a new article each week. However at times, lulls in the frequency may occur, so I hope you will be patient. These articles on the oil colors that make up my color palette is something I’ve been working on already since June 2016 and I look forward to sharing with you some of the discoveries I have found.

So let’s start with a list of the colors I keep on my palette all the time.

This is my daily full-color palette set up. The first column of color swatches are the oil colors straight from the tube. For the next columns (two through five) I mix different whites I use on a regular basis with each color. In each of these columns, for each of the color tints, I tried to mix consistent volumes of white with pigment. This way it would be easier to discern the pigment density of each color and the tinting strength of the whites. The second column of color swatches are made with a mixture of Rublev’s Lead White#1. The third column uses Rublev’s Venetian White. The fourth column uses Gamblin’s Titanium White, and the fifth column uses Williamsburg’s Zinc Buff White. (Eventually I will have an article that is just dedicated to the different whites I use, these four whites are just a few of what I explore and work with.

I know that there are many colors out there, however for this project, the oil colors I personally use and have explored are going to be written about. It is my goal with this project to share with others what I have learned from the different oil colors out there, hopefully you learn something as well and make better and more specific decisions about the oil colors you choose for yourself.

Let’s begin (in no specific order) with a color from my palette.

Cadmium Orange (PO 20)

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Creative Process: Bittersweet, 32 x 40 inches

Bittersweet by Elizabeth Floyd, 32 x 40 inches, oil on linen


The idea behind this painting had been floating around in my mind for more than two years before I was finally ready to begin in November 2015. I knew the subject matter would require a large painting surface and I must admit I was a bit intimidated by the idea of painting a life-size painting in the level of detail I imagined.

I am glad I allowed the idea to percolate and develop, because I am so happy with how this painting turned out.

I wanted a painting that was as big as possible while also maintaining the intimate feel of the delicate vine. By my nature, I am drawn to intricate patterns and details, the more delicate and nuanced, the more my mind wants to engage. So I wanted this painting to be an exploration of layering the textures and patterns created by the setup. Included in this painting is a Turkman rug that has beautiful deep reds, blacks, and blues, where some of the reds almost shift into purple tones. I was drawn to include it as my background because it complements the yellows and oranges of the bittersweet. The split-oak basket was an object I have wanted to paint for along time, I had just never found a place for it in a composition. So overall this painting came together and I began painting it.

For the first two months that I worked on this painting, I had several fits and starts where I would have to scrape down everything I had worked on because it was just off. I do not have any photos of this era because I was so wrapped up with the painting process that I would forget to take photos. Around Christmas I took some time off from the studio. During this break, I thought about how I wanted to move forward and what I might have to change in order to accomplish my painting goals.

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This is where the painting was when the new year rolled around, and I was now energized to tackle this painting.

The big change I incorporated into my studio habit to help me overcome the painting obstacles I previously encountered was to move my easel away from my viewpoint spot. Each time I actually painted, I needed to step 3-4 steps forward to paint, and then I would step back and compare the painting to actuality. This is similar to the sight-size painting method, but not really. I have really fallen in love with this method and have been using it on other paintings I am working on now.

Once things began to come together it was just a matter of working on the details and moving forward. The painting then came together rapidly.

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Here is a detail of the finished painting.

20160202-002 Bittersweet 32x40 detail

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Creative Process: Ring, Sparrow, Phoenix, 24 x 36 inches

Ring, Sparrow, Pheonix by Elizabeth Floyd, 24 x 36 inches, oil on linen

Ring, Sparrow, Phoenix

Last summer this painting was inspired by many ideas I had about marriage that were floating around in my head.

I had just acquired a vintage double wedding ring quilt at an estate sale and fell in love with its faded pastel colors and pattern. When I decided to develop a composition with this quilt, I was motivated to find objects that would support thoughts of love and marriage.

Of the different objects included in the painting, three specific items that symbolize and support my ideas of what makes a marriage strong and long lasting were:

Ring, Sparrow, Pheonix by Elizabeth Floyd, 24 x 36 inches, oil on linen
1. My wedding band
2. The image of a sparrow on the Pennsylvania redware pitcher. Often a sparrow has been a symbol of industriousness, commitment, and hard work.
3. The image of a phoenix on the imari bowl. A phoenix is associated with the cycle of life, living, burning itself out only to rise from the ashes with renewed youth and vigor.

Ring, Sparrow, Pheonix by Elizabeth Floyd, 24 x 36 inches, oil on linen

Other items were included as well, flowers from my early-summer garden, draped fabric, food and drink. I gathered these items, and began to assemble a complex composition with a lot of individual pieces, where a linear rhythm would predominate over my tendency to rely on color-masses to create unity.


Here are photos of my process:

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And here is a detail of the gaillardia flower bouquet
Ring, Sparrow, Pheonix by Elizabeth Floyd, 24 x 36 inches, oil on linen

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Creative Process: Late Summer Tomatoes, 36 x 30 inches

I am VERY wedded to my process of painting from life in natural light when I am working on a still-life painting. Sometimes this dedication to only painting from life can affect the development of a painting.

This painting, “Late Summer Tomatoes” started out with sunflowers as the leading star, however a family emergency required me to stop work on the painting after the initial first week of work. This situation took me away from home for two weeks and in that time my sunflowers had bloomed out in my garden, leaving me in search of something else to incorporate into the setup from what my garden was producing when I returned to the studio.

Luckily for me, my tomatoes were especially productive and I decided to paint them again.

Here are some photos showing my painting process.

20150924-020 WIP01This image is taken from my first day of blocking in the composition.  As you can see, originally a basket full of sunflowers was going to be sitting on the green step stool.

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At the beginning of the second day of blocking in I realized that I needed to shift the stool down some in the painting, so began to work over the previous day’s burnt umber block-in with lead white mixtures.

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Then I left for two weeks, and this was the chaos I returned to, with the sunflowers all bloomed out… My garden always gets overgrown and wild by the end of August.  I am painting so much that I do not have has much opportunity to keep the crazy growth in check, and I hate cutting back at this time because I want to maximize what I can paint from in September and October, and so many birds begin eating from the seed heads of the flowers I just feel guilty about cutting back the chaos until the last moment.  Sigh. How I wish there were more hours in the day during the summer…

And thank goodness my husband is patient with me and that we do not have a HOA, they would be bothering me like crazy around this time of year ;)

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When I got back home and into the studio, things were so crazy I did not photograph any of the earlier days.  But, you can see that I made a lot of progress on the quilt and stool along with the first block-in of the tomatoes.  To make the change easier after what I had painted in before the two week break, I laid down a middle gray value to simplify everything, it was easier to move forward without any of the previous composition still lingering.

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Further along with a big push focusing on the tomatoes.  The tomatoes began to ripen quickly in my studio, so I had to give them my whole attention for several days in a row.

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Getting closer to the finish line….
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The completed painting! Late Summer Tomatoes, 36 x 30 inches, oil on linen.

20150924-020 Late-Summer-Tomatoes detail
A closeup of the tomatoes and stems.

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