Exploring Pigment and Color in Mexico City

Mexico City is my place I go to day-dream. My father lived there for over ten years, and I have heard stories all my life. My younger brother got offered a job there. He feared the humans were too beautiful and beer too affordable. He settled in Honolulu instead. It occupies a vivid space in my imagination. One day, I could not wait any longer. Feeling an irresistible pull, my partner and I booked an impromptu trip. For me, there is a sexiness, worldliness and intellectual overload that rules my heart. It makes my decade in New York City seem drab. I cannot explain it with words: hence, here we are with colors. I still look at property values and wonder how to make it work. I need a slice of that place, and I do not deserve it. I need to know it’s a place I can escape. Pigments share a significant part of the city’s history. I have pulled together a few that had the biggest impact on me.

Palacio de Bellas Artes; Photograph by Mahesh Varma.

Palacio de Bellas Artes; Photograph by Mahesh Varma.



Carmine Lake

Interior room of a photo we took at Chapultepec Castle (Carmine Lake dyed fabric on the walls)

Interior room of a photo we took at Chapultepec Castle (Carmine Lake dyed fabric on the walls)

We visited the Palacio de Bellas Artes. We were lucky to catch the last few days of an exhibition about a special pigment. It described the story of a red that talked about today as Carmine Lake but known as Cochineal (or Natural Red 4). I have never seen an holistic examination of the economics and narrative of a pigment before. More exhibitions like this, please.

I heard about this color at Kremer Pigments when we were learning about natural pigments for dye. I found the color attractive. But, we grind female bugs into dust in order to make it. The cochineal insect feeds on pink prickly pear cactus (raised in Mexico and Peru). The fact the source of this color comes from Mexico may be why I felt its strong presence.

There are great write ups of the exhibition here and here.

  • Color Index Number C.I. 75470, or E120

  • Chemical Class: Organic

  • Stability to 300 degrees Celsius until it darkens

  • Useful hue, similar properties to Natural Madder Lake



Silver WHITE

A photograph we captured hiking a volcano near CDMX

A photograph we captured hiking a volcano near CDMX

Mexico ranks number 1 in Silver production in all of the world. Silver is a metal that has been used for thousands of years in jewelry, ornaments, and utensils, and as the basis of monetary systems. Industrial applications of silver include: electrical and electronic products, mirrors, and photography, which is the largest single end use of silver. The principle hues of metallic pigments are silver and gold. Usually, there are particles of the metal in the form of flakes. It’s definitely an “unusual” pigment but I like it for acrylic, watercolor and gouche. Maybe even special effects. I saw silver in the sky and reflections. I felt it in nature. About 15 percent of total silver discovered is in Mexico (reference here).

  • Color Index Number C.I. 77019 Silver White

  • Boiling and melting points for the pigment are not known

  • Stable up to 800°C, non-flammable

  • Made of Mica and TiO2

  • Not water soluble

  • My favorite place to buy the pigment is here

Indian Yellow

My partner before Amaretto gelato

My partner before Amaretto gelato

This pigment has a long history around the world. There’s controversy about when it was discovered if it was made from cow urine. I do not know how the story ended, but today that’s not how it’s made. It’s also known as Cobalt Yellow. It’s a processed mineral and made mostly of cobalt potassium nitrate. I included a photograph I captured of my partner in front of building. His shirt, the building and the glow share the hue. It’s a warm and nourishing color. I also found it up in the desert-like hills in the brush.

  • Color Index Name (Aureolin) and Number C.I 77357 or PY 40

  • Discovered in 1848

  • Chemical class: Inorganic

  • Poor stability

  • Poor tinting strength, useful in glazes

My highlights

  • Spend a day doing a trek up a sacred mountain, eat squash blossom tacos afterwards

  • Drinks and sweets before salsa dancing in Roma Norte

  • Take the bus and climb the pyramids

  • Explore the freshest, largest farmer’s markets in the world

  • Go to so many museums (there are hundreds)

Travellara mossler