Thursday, 1 September 2016

Gamboge - what is it?

Many people are familiar with the name Gamboge, often called New Gamboge, but not so many will have come across the resin that made the original paint.

Gamboge chunks
NY24 is Natural Yellow 24 - natural gamboge, a resin from a few trees found in Asia from the Garcina genus, and particularly in Cambodia. the name is derived from cambugium - as is the name Cambodia itself. It is a strange substance, appearing as a dull earthy yellow lump but when you touch a brush to it a stunning yellow paint appears. Sadly, though, it is a fugitive colour, not suited to long-term use.

Most companies have a paint based on this pigment colour. It is generally a mid to warm transparent yellow.

PY153 was a popular pigment to use - available in Daniel Smith and Winsor & Newton, but it is no longer available so alternative mixes are being used. You can read a great W&N article about it here.

Natural Gamboge painted out as a pigment

Here is the natural gamboge. A touch of a wet brush and the colour is a very pure and lovely yellow.

But it also fades. Here it is in my lightfast tests after just a few months. The left side was exposed to light, the right side wasn't.

Natural gamboge is apparently a powerful purgative/cathartic and/or diuretic depending what you read and is poisonous so not a substance you'd want to ingest by accident. Fascinating though :-)

Please note - this is not a recommended pigment, though traditionally used in Chinese painting.