50 SHADES OF ALMOST EVERYTHING


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Rest in peace Cadmium Yellow, Orange and Red (c.1829-2014). Your vibrant, exuberant and reliable reign is about to be brutally terminated. Cut down in your prime by colorless legislators in the European Union.

Cadmium pigment for oils, acrylic, and watercolor has been an ingredient of artists’ palettes since the 19th century, and prized for brilliance, intensity, and lightfastness.

The EU believes that suitable alternatives can be made or do exist. But what is wrong with something which has been used all these years? If it ain’t broke–don’t fix it.

The relatively high cost meant that few painters could afford to use it until World War 1. (Strangely, J.M.W. Turner, an often reckless dabbler in new media, doesn’t seem to have tried cadmium yellow.

It was used to paint vehicles, and to color soap,glass, jewelry, toys and later plastics. The most famous use of cadmium yellow was for the New York taxi. Whistler, Monet, Matisse, Munch, Picasso, Warhol, (and Kayti Rasmussen) have all relied on it.

Granted that the paint is dangerous if eaten or inhaled, but it does come with a warning, like all the other things government has taken away such as DDT, Diazinon, etc. It may be dangerous to open a can of Pillsbury biscuits, they do have a habit of exploding.
Painters use a relatively small amount of cadmium. They argue that the problem is caused by the industrial use of cadmium in batteries.

Could there be a puritanical motive in banning cadmium paints? Barnett Newman’s most famous work was the series of 1960’s murals titled “Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue”. He was of course referring to cadmium red and yellow. The point he was trying to make is that people are afraid of large blocks of color, seeing them as hedonistic and frivolous.

For the past two decades the dominant color among designers has been gray (Fifty Shades of Grey), with black in the wings. Car manufacturers have had almost no need for cadmium yellow or red–practically everyone drives a black, grayish, or white car, often with dark tinted windows.

Mark Twain took a trip to India with his family who were dressed soberly in dark sensible colors. He was impressed to see Indian ladies in colorful sari, smiling at him as they passed by. Were they happy because they were wearing color, were his family unhappy because they weren’t? Who knows?

sea urchins

Looking around, I see that I am typing on a black keyboard, which is feeding into a black computer. I recently bought another pair of black pants to go with my other five pair of black pants. But I’m clinging to a bright cadmium orange top.

Author: kaytisweetlandrasmussen83

I am a retired fine arts teacher, sculptor/painter, writer, and a native Californian. I love my family,dogs, horses, movies, reading and music, probably in that order. I have been married forever to a very nice man who is nice to old ladies, dogs and children.

12 thoughts on “50 SHADES OF ALMOST EVERYTHING”

  1. The yellow road stripes are also now banned as the toxicity from them gets washed into the stormdrains and into the oceans. Yes, it is a blow for artists and taxi drivers but we might just all have to wear the cadmium top.

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  2. I know that legislators in Brussels have many overpaid and unelected hours in which they have nothing better to do than to regulate in ever more detail the manner in which Europeans lead their lives, but I had no idea that their jurisdiction extended to the United States of America.

    I understand cadmium poisoning is serious, and I suppose workers in factories that make these pigments are exposed to it. Yet I recall no public discussion on the subject and I am left to trust upon the wisdom of my rulers to make a better world.

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  3. OSHA, (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) takes care of all those regulations here.

    Cadmium, along with many other chemicals is dangerous, and comes with warnings. Until recently, artist’s paints have been excluded, since there is such a small amount used in artists’ paints. Paint companies have been coming up with alternative organic pigments, which bizarrely are marketed with exactly the same name— cadmium yellow or red.

    The alternatives are less intense and have to be painted in several layers, which leads to muddiness and loss of opacity. Obviously a problem for watercolorists.

    The only exception to the ban will probably apply to art conservatives for restoration of artworks.

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  4. But surely Clemens was wearing his trademark white suit ? – that’d make ’em smile at him, Katy. Plus,he was rawther attractive ! [grin]

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  5. Nooo!!! Cadmium yellow can’t be banned! It’s a favourite of mine. So deep, so unashamedly yellow. The mania for the illusion of safety is mad.

    PS. When I was little, and still now, the names of paints put a spell on me, including Madder Lake, Burnt Sienna, Viridian and of course, Cadmium Yellow!!!!

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  6. This isn’t surprising at all. It seems the goal of governments and bureaucracies generally is to indulge their desire for control. Does their need for control constrain the creative ones of the world, from artists to children? Too bad for you. Cadmium yellow can be dangerous? Away with it! Bicycles can be dangerous? Helmets for everyone! Unsupervised children on swing sets might skin a knee or break a bone? Away with swing sets. Etc., ad nauseum.

    i might even be tempted to mention the new regulations for la vie d’amour in your state’s colleges/universities. What in the world could be less colorful, less creative, less enjoyable, that a relationship which requires a multitude of agreements along the way to even a first kiss? More trysts, fewer trials! That’s what I say.

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    1. And at the end—we have learned nothing and have nothing to say. It may even be dangerous to walk along a city street (and we know that it is in some places.) European countries seem to get along fine without all this fuss. Although it seems that Sweden started this whole cadmium thing.

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  7. Love, love, love this post! It is getting increasingly difficult to dispose of what used to be called garbage, but now must be sorted into categories. I dutifully look things up on the recycling website before I discard them, only to find out that paper is banned from the garbage! If the paper has cooking oil on it, the “green bin” will work, but what about those squares of telephone book paper (soon to be unobtainable, I’m sure), with printing ink smeared on them? Making art has its price, I guess.

    And what about my garden? Will hellebore and monkshood be banned from the home garden? Or will there be mandatory labeling for them?

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    1. It means I need to go through my medicine chest frequently to see what to dispose of and as you say, put it in the right container. Upgraded and outdated electronics even go to a different address for disposal. Plastic bags are bad and we can’t have them, but food companies keep packaging things in them. They do make biodegradable plastic. Why can’t they use those at the grocery stores? There are government agencies whose job is simply to make things complicated!

      As a pet owner—how do we pick up the dog waste?

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