Art Spectrum® – The Original Australian Colour Maker

Term: 4 Year: 2017

From its humble beginnings operating out of a mud brick artists studio near Eltham in Melbourne, Art Spectrum® has been creating colour for over 50 years, and is the original and largest Australian manufacturer of fine art products in the Southern Hemisphere.

Art Spectrum® was established in 1966 by David Keys Snr (1925–2014), who was an artist and lecturer in his own right.

In the 1960’s there were no Australian made fine art paints available and the creative community only had access to high priced foreign manufactured art materials. The challenge for Australian artists was trying to capture the Australian landscape with colour palettes created for the traditional European landscapes which were vastly different. Smouldering violets, vibrant yellows, vivid greens and shimmering golds were missing, just to name a few. David Keys Snr’s focus was simple: to create a pure, high quality paint for the Australian artist that reflected this countries unique colour palette.

Over the last 50 years, Art Spectrum® has created colour ranges in Oils, Watercolours, Inks, Gouache and Pastels which incorporate the highest quality pigments, with a consistency that has made Art Spectrum® the number one Australian supplier to this day. 

Art Spectrum® products have been used extensively by some of the most iconic Australian Artists including Sidney Nolan (1917-1992), Arthur Boyd (1920-1999), John Olsen (b.1928) and more recently artists such as Anh Do (b.1977), all of whom value the quality, consistency and colour range of this unique product. Art Spectrum® continues to work with artists of this calibre to perfect their colour range to meet the needs of today’s artists.

The company is now run by David Keys Snr’s son, (also called) David Keys and his partner Tamara, who continue the Art Spectrum® tradition of providing the highest quality paint at an accessible price point.

Zart were fortunate enough to meet David Keys at his manufacturing plant in Brunswick and take a rare tour of his factory to see how this amazing hand milled product is made, from raw pigments through to the end product.

Manufacturing Art Spectrum® Oil paint is a highly skilled and labour intensive process. Firstly, Art Spectrum® start with the highest quality pigments which are sourced from all over the world. These pigments are then combined with the remainder of the formula, largely linseed oil with a very small amount of stabilisers that are needed to keep the product perfect for use in the tube.  High speed mixers are then used to combine these ingredients.

Next, the paint is loaded onto the triple mill. These triple mills have been used to make colour the world over for hundreds of years and this part of the process remains largely unchanged. The mixture passes through three large rollers that grind the pigment at a microscopic level into the oil. This process actually changes the colour of the pigment and further combines it with the oil to make the smooth buttery consistency which artists know and love about the Art Spectrum® brand. A colour may pass though the mill up to three times depending on the pigment and formula. The manufacturing process is every bit as important and unique as the pigment itself and is the reason why no other company can provide exactly the same paint. 

A record of samples from every batch of paint is archived. These samples known as ‘drawdowns’ record not only the colour, but the consistency and transparency of each batch. It is essentially a fingerprint of the colour. This is necessary to ensure the paint can be reproduced exactly the same every time. Which is why you know that the Burnt Sienna on the shelf today is exactly the same formulated colour that Sidney Nolan used in the 1970’s and 80’s, or that the Australian Yellow Green you are using is the exact same paint that Ahn Doh is using! 

Once the colour has passed all the quality control stages, it is then filled and packaged into different sizes: 40ml, 150ml, 300ml, 500ml, 1 litre & 4 litre quantities. 
The filling machine then labels the tubes or tins and applies a unique batch number.

Oil Colour, Watercolour, Gouache, Inks, Primers, and associated Mediums for all our colour ranges are made in our manufacturing plant in Brunswick, Victoria, where the mills are in constant use to keep up with demand. Art Spectrum® is very proud that all of our colour products are made here in Australia, unlike our competitors who are venturing off-shore. Every day new batches of colour are being created in this truly unique and inspiring place that is the heart of Art Spectrum® the Original Australian Colour Maker.

For more information on Art Spectrum’s product range please visit www.artspectrum.com.au and follow them on Social Media.

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