“Pass me that tin of pigment,” the boy says.
“This one?” the woman asks, “With the skeleton hand on it?”
“That’s my bleach white,” the boy says, pouring what looks like egg whites onto a glass palette. “Best mixing white of any artist paint.”
“Is it safe?” the woman asks, watching him shake cloudy granules into the goo.
“As long as you’re not dumb. Sprinkle it in your eye and it’ll shrivel like salt on the jumbo slugs they harvest my slime-binder from.” He points to the sizzling ooze. “Undissolved, the raw pigment’s too big to worry about inhaling, so it’s safe.”
The woman watches him mull the fluid and powder together wearing some thick work gloves. The paste slowly turns to a white so intense it could cause snow blindness in the right lighting. “I always wondered why you needed a license to paint.”
“Oh, that’s nothing,” the boy says proudly, “Poison orange is basically an amalgam of toxic metals like they used to assassinate people during the great edification. You mix it two-to-one with pox green – the stuff the military breeds biological weapons from – bleach with white, and get a beautiful canary yellow.”
“Fascinating,” the woman exclaims.
Having scraped his white into a bowl and doused his palette with acid-wash, he adds another dollop of slime. “The other foundation paints are cannon purple, and oil black. The purple comes pre-emulsified so you’d need chemistry equipment to make bombs out of it. You mix and bleach with orange to get your reds and magentas, or green to get your blues and cyans.
The black is just your standard petroleum-by-product. Purists say that if you can’t get the right darks and dulls, you’re either over-glazing, over-bleaching, or not mixing your three non-bleaches right. Modern theory proves black expands the gamut and you can’t get certain shades and tones without it – besides making a painter’s life easier.”
The boy looks up from the next sizzling pile. “I don’t get to use it, though, because the ventilation isn’t good enough not to have to worry about asphyxiating on scentless fumes.”
“Safety first,” the woman says, but she’s glad to understand the fine arts just a little better.