A Much Anticipated Visit

By Johanne Mangi

In July, the North American distribution arm of Royal Talens received visitors from the legendary Putney Painters from Vermont along with their contingent, The Third Floor Painters of Connecticut. The group consisted of Penelope Simpson & Capt. John, Carol Arnold, Rosemary Ladd, John Smith, Leigh Bradley, Madeline Ullrich, Johanne Mangi, Catherine Nunn, Pamela Reese and Nancy Howell.

It was a party just waiting to happen and Kyle Richardson, Vice President of RTNA, was more than happy to comply. Take a group of painters and put them in a room full of paint and what, exactly, do you think will happen? You guessed it. A lot of paint slinging.

Who wouldn’t want to open a fresh tube of paint? There’s simply, nothing, quite like it. We were dazzled by the sheer availability. Oh, look! Permanent Madder Deep! Cobalt Turquoise Blue!! So many greens! There’s Carol Arnold at the table testing Cobalt Violet. I wanted paint colors I don’t even use! It was difficult to stay calm and composed. While some of us busied ourselves pushing paint around, John Smith discussed the finer points of Phthalos with Kyle.

Designations on each label were skillfully explained by Kyle, who pointed out important nuances. If you are looking for a similar color in another brand, he noted that P(pigment), paired with Y, R, V, O or W and corresponding numbers tells you exactly what you need to know. All of Rembrandt oil paints are rated over 100 years lightfast under museum conditions. Not some. ALL. That’s why you don’t see Alizarin. But you will see Permanent Madder in light, medium and deep.

Madeline Ullrich was busy strolling up and down the stacks while Penelope Simpson, perusing the rack of sample oil paint, was deciding what to try next. Cat Nunn was overwhelmed by innumerable possibilities. Frankly, all I wanted was 10 minutes in the sample room with a shopping cart. Really.

Leigh and the rest of us were notably impressed with the particulars of the paint creation process. Carol Arnold was interested to learn how each color is specifically ground to achieve the same buttery quality. Rosemary Ladd was astonished at the consistency of Rembrandt paints. No doubt these are key reasons why Richard Schmid has always reserved space on his palette for them. Royal Talens is steeped in traditional methods and although parts of the process are automated which don’t need human touch, such as packaging, but to ensure historical color matching, the crucial components of paint making still remains a hands-on process.

We also were surprised to learn that Royal Talens is truly “Royal”. They received their designation, equivalent to a knighthood, from the Queen of Netherlands, in 1949. And we thought it was just a name. As we strolled through the warehouse we learned that the entire N. A. operation was put together in a mere 6 months. Not only that, but they currently do everything with a staff of 12. Stunning. They are the face of Royal Talens in North America. You can’t help but be excited for them. If you have an excellent product that speaks for itself, however, it still remains a relationship business. We definitely were won over by everyone’s energy and enthusiasm.

Lest you think this was only about oil paints, you would be wrong. We had Cobra Water Mixable Oil Colors with shades that brought to mind that other Putney Painter, Charlie Hunter. Kyle squeezed out two mounds of Cobra paint and one mound of regular oil paint, showing how we could combine the two and still use water. This has always been a murky topic to me, but an important one, as these particular paints are only going to become more popular. So much so, that there are several new colors in the pipeline. Then there were Watercolors, Gouache and Ecoline Markers. And, of course, Pastels. Pam Reese and Nancy Howell got a kick out of Kyle’s description of the “Willie Wonka” Pastel machine that makes all sorts of noises, extruding the pastels just as a pastry chef would. As if that weren’t enough, it was fascinating to hear Kyle’s description of how RT manufactures its Gouache with potato starch instead of gum arabic. He demonstrated its fluidity once water is added. By now our heads were spinning with excitement!

Back in the conference room we were treated to lunch while we viewed a few videos on the manufacturing process. You would think this would be dry material, but it wasn’t. Tops are on and tubes are filled from the bottom and crimped while hanging upside down. If you are interested, you can access the video on YouTube.

And what would a paint manufacturers’ place of business be without paintings? On the walls were the likes of Charlie Hunter, Lori McNee, and in particular, a large impressive painting by Don Nederhand. Don happened to be Kyle’s mentor as well as Lead Artist and Technical Advisor to RT. In addition, one of the paintings actually used in the film, Loving Vincent, was displayed on the wall in Kyle’s office. This film is the very first fully-painted animated film about Van Gogh. 115 Painters created 65,000 frames, each one a stand alone painting. They used the equivalent of 32,500 40 ml tubes of Royal Talens paint! The film’s production crew tested many paint brands before finally choosing Van Gogh Oils. Their broad range of yellows, crucial in achieving accuracy with Vincent’s pallette, made Royal Talens the obvious choice. Be sure to watch for the premiere in September.

Now, the best part. We each got a bag of goodies. A real Christmas in July moment. We look forward to another visit to Royal Talens North America to see what they have cooking next!