Colorful Fridays–Two Carl, Keep Calm Purple


“But, luckily, he kept his wits and his purple crayon.” From Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955) (from

If you want to know more about this deep rich clear purple, look to the artists. Only the artists have an appreciation for this purest purple. Dioxazine Purple is a mainstay for today’s flower and nature painting but is little known outside of artsy circles. Some users of printer’s ink may have a basic knowledge of Dioxazine Purple. But to find more about Dioxazine Purple, ask the artists who know.

Liz Powley of Inspired Gumnut has most of the background scoop on Dioxazine Purple. According to Powley, Dioxazine Purple is a derivative of coal tar and was discovered by two Carls, Graebe and Glaser, in 1872. Carbazole is the extracted chemical’s name used to create this luscious, velvety purple. (Maybe they should have called it Carl-bazole??). Most makers of artist’s paint have this purple listed as Dioxazine Purple except Daniel Smith. Daniel Smith’s lists Carbazole Violet as a purple with, “intense,vibrant color,” and it “can invent an iris petal with each stroke.”

Color Curriculum from the American Society of Botanical Artists (ASBA), features an article by Carolyn Payzant on the properties of Dioxazine Purple. Payzant describes Dioxazine Purple as, “one of the bluest shades of violet,”and says, “it mixes well with most any pigment.” Elizabeth Floyd, on her website, says Dioxazine Purple, “is a strong staining purple that can go a little crazy at times.” Floyd advises caution by starting with a small amount of paint on the brush as, “a little goes a long way.”

Fans of intense purples can be grateful to the Two Carls whose experimentation led to artistic abilities of reaching the highest of purple peaks. If the intensity and vibration of rich Dioxizine Purple becomes overwhelming, offers a Dioxazine Purple mousepad with the admonishing words, “Keep Calm and Carry on.” If you find yourself overwhelmed by a wave of purple fury during an intense session of inventing iris petals, simply look down at your Dioxazine Purple mouse pad, take a deep breath, keep calm and carry on.

Here’s a demonstration of Dioxazine Purple by Liquitex:

Never Ending Nature

Do artists see nature differently than other people?   Do artists seek to replicate nature, enhance it or just see something others don’t?  Paintings more often than not have a life that is different from what one might see with the naked eye.  When artists choose nature as subject, nature changes, becomes something more. Whether landscape, still life or botanical illustration, nature through the eyes of the artist shimmers with a vivid electrical quality that might have previously escaped notice.

The website, Skinny Artists has “150 wonderful art quotes that can inspire.”  Among the quotes is one from Russian born artist, Marc Chagall.  Chagall states, “Great art picks up where nature ends.”  Chagall’s message is the goal nature artists are working for.  These artists are enhancing nature and bringing it to life in a way not usually seen by the average eye.  Nature artists seek to give notice to simple beauty that might otherwise be missed.

Botanical illustration is frequently categorized as more science than art.  Yet what botanical artists are depicting is more than simple scientific re-creation. Their illustrations give nature the intrigue that leads us to look more closely.  Margaret Mee, (1909-1988), conservationist and botanical artist, brought the Amazon Rainforest to life through her paintings of orchids and other exotic plant life she encountered on her excursions into the untouched rainforests.  The vibrancy of nature in Mee’s art sparked an interest in the rainforests that led to later efforts to protect and preserve this vast eco-system.

Today the beauty of nature through botanical art is fostered and nurtured by the American Society of Botanical Artists, (ASBA) and The Society of Botanical Artists, (SBA) in the United Kingdom and other national, international and regional organizations.  These organizations continually show us how wonderful the world of nature is when viewed through the magic of the artist’s hand.  Botanical artists are the portraitists of plant life, highlighting the beauty and uniqueness of individual horticultural species.  Botanical artists “pick up where nature ends” to open our eyes to the beauty around us.

Nature is never ending while art lives.

The following Margaret Mee painting and others can be seen at the Audubon House Gallery of Natural Art.


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