Foraging For Earth Pigments
I went for a walk down our lane this morning for a wee forage at the source of the river Chelmer, I didn’t expect to find much, (it was more for the exercise) but also to look for pigments in order to make my own artists quality watercolours, I use watercolour pigments to make my gum bichromate prints.
I was fortunate enough to have done a course around 25 years ago with Dr David Cranswick, learning how to paint in the style of renaissance artists and how to grind your own oil paint – which is pretty much the same as watercolour and egg tempera etc, the difference being that the pigment just uses a different vehicle.
Natural pigments are nothing new, we’ve been using them since prehistoric times – most artists today are so disconnected from the natural world becuase it’s just so much easer to buy our pigments from an art supplies shop.
Anyway, back to my making of pigment – I didn’t get much of a haul from my foraging but I did get some red ochre and some chalk and a couple of Broken bits of old red brick – which can also be used seen as it’s made from red clay. Now that I’ve ground these down, theres a few more steps in order to use them as watercolour paint which I’ll share with you at a later date.
Every area tends to have its own colours, unfortunately here, it’s mainly flint but I do have high hopes to find interesting pigments in Scotland and Wales for my rainforest project where I’ll be printing the images from pigments foraged from the forest floor.
Some useless info:
Adam, the first human mentioned in the Bible, his name descends from ancient Hebrew words for red earth. Genesis tells us that he was made with the dust of the ground and the breath of life – whoever Adam was, and wherever he first drew breath, his name and his story point us toward humankind’s profound and ancient fascination with the most colourful earth in the world, red ochre. Ochre also has an uncanny ability to resemble blood. Crush some red ochre stone into dust and add spit or fat or milk, and it really does taste, smell, look, and feel like blood.
Grinding artists pigments part 1.
Grinding artists pigments part 2.