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Product Reviews: SyntaxofColor

Cobra Water Mixable Oil Colors - Royal Talens

Water mixable oil colors have gained in popularity over the last few years as artists unfortunately discover that they have sensitivities to solvents that hamper their ability to paint with traditional oil paints.  One solution is for the artist to use water mixable oils and eliminate the use of solvents entirely.  Other solvent free method of painting exist using oil colors that will be discussed in a Grammar of Color essay.

Water mixable oils have been misunderstood by the average oil color painter.  Artist appear to not know how to categorize these materials from a traditional definition of paints that are mixed with a drying oil.  The concept is fairly simple when describing water mixable oils.  They are composed of the same pigment that oil colors contain, but the difference is that the oil used as a binder had one or more additives that gives

the oil the ability to mix with water.  The material involved that makes this possible is called a surfactant.  However, that term is not commonly used so artist should think of the substance that makes the oil binder mix with water as a type of "soap."  It's not really soap, but the working properties mimic soap to the extent that it makes the concept easier to understand.  The concept is not new.  Oils have been mixed with surfactants for a variety of purposes.  If a farmer wants a treatment for crops to not wash off quickly from plants in the field, an oil with a surfactant may be used to deliver the treatment to the crop that has been planted.  It remains on the plant for several days or weeks and

slowly washes off with the rain or irrigation that is given to the plants in the field.  The main thing for artists to understand is that water mixable oils have the ability to be cleaned up using plain water.  

Cobra is a full line of artists quality paints that provide the same handling properties as oil colors.  Roya Talens, makes the Rembrandt and van Gogh lines of traditional oil colors and the same technical understanding that goes into their traditional oil color appears to be employed in the Cobra line as well. Royal Talens previously sold a line of water mixable paints under the van Gogh label and called them H2Oil, an interesting word play on H2O, the chemical composiiton for water and the addition of letters to spell "oil."  It was a clever name.  The name "Cobra" while distinct, is totally baffling with regards to having a relationship to water mixable paints.  The only art related "Cobra" reference is linked to the post-WWII art movement that found its roots in primitive, intense color, akin to American action painting.  The art movement named Cobra was derived from the combination of Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam, the three centers where artists in this movement practiced.

The paint has a nice butter feeling.  The colors are intense and richly pigmented.  The line has a limited number of colors provides but that is expected from a paint that is basically in a niche market.  Companies are practical and the subset of users at the moment appears not to warrant expanding the line to the same extent as the Rembrant line.  The basics are available and some nice convenience colors like Naples Yellow, Olive Green and Titanium Buff are offered.  It would be nice to see a few more earth color in the line.  

Reviews by other artist are very positive.  Cobra seems to be one of the closest to behaving like oil paint out of all the water mixables available.  Artist are very sensitive to the feel and handling of paint so the rating of "closest to behaving like oil paint" denotes a high score from traditional oil paint artists. For artists sensitive to solvents, Cobra is a path to remaining with the oil paint medium.   

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