Dioxazine purple is a standard color for acrylic paint. Other standards Ultramarine blue and Alizarin crimson, when mixed together, create a muted, muddy, purplish color that is greatly improved by adding a touch of Dioxazine purple. I wanted to go beyond that use for the color and unlock its potential.
Dioxazine purple, also known as carbazole purple, is created from a colorless crystalline substance obtained from coal tar. The discovery of coal tar dyes in the mid-1800s opened up the door to a wide variety of aniline colors. (See Violet/Purple timeline). It is a rich, pure color that, when adding water or a medium, turns into a lovely range of violets and purples.
In my first color study, I used Dioxazine purple in a very subjective way. Making subjective color choices is one of the pleasures and principles of painting. I substituted purple for a dark brownish color in the wave pattern. I painted the blue first and then added the purple wave shadows.
The plant shown in the foreground is an American Persimmon tree, Diospyros virginiana. It is a native plant and seems to love sandy soil. At Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia Beach, VA, it is a shrubby plant with dark green, glossy leaves; and in late fall, the leaves have dark purplish spots. The fruit is a very pretty orange color and ripens in late fall.
I was pleased with the result of the first color study and wanted to continue my exploration. I read that Dioxazine purple, because of its deep hue, could be used as a substitute for black. Colors can look and take on different qualities when next to other colors. Before painting, I developed a palette of colors, deciding not to only use purple as a replacement for black. My web development experience has previously acquainted me with Hexadecimal colors. I scanned my paint swatch, and then once in Photoshop, I identified the Hexadecimal number. Then I rearranged numbers to get what I call the Hexadecimal triad, shown here with their opposite or complementary color. Complementary colors are also colors that when mixed together will create a gray. In the color study, you can see that I made the dark water to the right of the reflection more like #3b3416 and the left side more like #0f3b33.
In this color study, I again used Dioxazine purple instead of black for the branches and background. I used Hexadecimal complementary colors for the sky and water. The purpose was to capture the high contrast of the bright early afternoon light when subtle colors disappear.
I hope this article is helpful to other painters. I really enjoyed this process and will go on to other explorations. While looking around for tips on using purple, I found many articles on purple pigments and dyes and created a timeline. Here is the link. Contact me if you would like to commission a painting or share your own color explorations.