Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Chromium-- It's Not Silver But It Sure Looks Like It

The area I live in had a "snow day" yesterday. In case you've been out of school too long to recall what that is I will refresh your memory. A snow day happens when there is so much snow the road crews can't keep up with the salting and plowing. I think we have about 20 inches total now and the wind chill is -44 degrees so the salt is not melting the ice on the roads. We are effectively trapped in our homes until it warms up a bit. I would be trapped here for a week if I didn't have a husband who was willing to go outside and shovel the drifts that are accumulating in our driveway.

I know I could have cleaned the house yesterday but I really felt more like painting, so I set up an eclectic still life using some of my favorite colors. I bought a chromium teapot, sugar bowl and creamer set off eBay a few months ago for the express purpose of using them for my still life set ups. I did a little research before I made my purchase. Whatever did people do before the internet? I'll tell you what they did, because I am old enough to remember! We used our encyclopedias or we went to the library, looked through the card catalogs, wrote down the reference number and found our reference material. Sometimes the reference material was in the library's basement and the librarian would purse her lips and glare at me before she tromped down the stairs thirty minutes later to locate it. Today I type the word into Google and get eight million hits in less than a second. Is it just me, or is the world speeding up exponentially?

Chromium, unlike silver, never needs polishing, and I immediately decided this was the kind of tea service I wanted  (since I couldn't afford silver and didn't really want to polish silver anyway). My research yielded some fascinating facts about chromium: Chromium oxide was used by the Chinese in the Qin dynasty over 2,000 years ago to coat metal weapons found with the Terracotta Army. Chromium was discovered as an element after it came to the attention of the western world in the red crystalline mineral crocoite (lead(II) chromate), discovered in 1761 and initially used as a pigment. Louis Nicolas Vauquelin first isolated chromium metal from this mineral in 1797. Since Vauquelin's first production of metallic chromium, small amounts of native (free) chromium metal have been discovered in rare minerals, but these are not used commercially. Instead, nearly all chromium is commercially extracted from the single commercially viable ore chromite, which is iron chromium oxide (FeCr2O4). Chromite is also now the chief source of chromium for chromium pigments.

Chromium metal and ferrochromium alloy are commercially produced from chromite by silicothermic or aluminothermic reactions, or by roasting and leaching processes. Chromium metal has proven of high value due to its high corrosion resistance and hardness. A major development was the discovery that steel could be made highly resistant to corrosion and discoloration by adding metallic chromium to form stainless steel. This application, along with chrome plating (electroplating with chromium) currently comprise 85% of the commercial use for the element, with applications for chromium compounds forming the remainder. In other words, the chromium steel coating on this tea set requires little care and will look good indefinitely. My kind of appliance.

Another interesting tidbit I gleaned from my searching: Chromium is the open source web browser project from which Google Chrome draws its source code. Hmmm...I love Chrome- it is my browser of choice unless I am using my iPad.

It's a wonder I ever get anything done. I am unnaturally curious and enjoy researching and learning new things. I could easily spend all day looking for more information about the curious magnetic properties of Chromium.

Back to the painting: I wanted it to be colorful and I wanted a general loose feeling, so I used big brushes for everything. I did not want too many sharp edges. I tried to manufacture a soft and dreamy feel. There is an interesting occurrence in the reflections on the teapot, with a beautiful juxtaposition of color reflecting from the fruit and the teal colored pot. The roundness of the teapot allows it to reflect more objects. The glass bottle in the background adds another dimension  and makes the orange clementines that much brighter. Accidental complementary colors resonate in the orange/aqua and violet/green of the subjects.

I'm happier with this painting than I am with the one I did last week of the silver creamer.  I know it's chromium plated but silver just sounds richer. I think every time we paint something it opens up new possibilities of seeing, no matter how many times we paint it. That's why I keep returning to the same landscapes. They are always a bit different and I know a little more each time I attempt it.

12" x 16" Oil on linen   Silver Teapot No. 1


jimmie white said...

Your best (that I've seen) still life yet....great edges.

Nora Sallows said...

Thank you, Jim! It was fun to paint. Nice snow day- back to work today. Hope they plowed the parking lot.