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SURVEY at the bottom of this post, please cast your vote! If you are using Firefox on a desktoip computer, you may not see the polls if you have tracking protection enabled under security settings. Click the shield icon in front of the URL and choose disable protection for this site. (if you wish obviously)

Now that I have a small first collection of pigments to play with before new plants can be tested next summer (I do have some old dried things I can try too), there are multiple ways to use them. They need some kind of binder, although I suppose you could just soak them in water. Alcohol? But even watercolours have binders added to add intensity to the colour as well as make it stick to your paper.

You can use oil, egg, honey*, gum, shellac, wax, milk, spit! or buy readymade binders for a variety of mediums. Even an acrylic binder which I may just have to test, although I’m leaning towards wax and shellac since I plan on working with that anyway.

As I progressed with the pigment extraction I found out that even if you think you’ve ground everything as fine as you can in the mortar, keep going for a while yet and it will improve. So my first batches needed a rerun to get out the last few lumps. To grind even finer I think you need a machine, so let’s keep it rustic like everything else, shall we? Also interestingly, the finer you grind, the bigger the jar you need, as the powder gets fluffier.

Some colour samples below. Autumnal tones which could definitely need some companion colours, but there are a few I quite like! The first five from left are all variations on Staghorn Sumac and the cocoa in the middle is from my hedge clippings, won’t be able to harvest more of those until next July.

I’ll be looking at reds and oranges next. Fresh blues, greens and purples are not really possible with plants, although since it’s elderberry season I may just cook up a batch to compare with wool dye samples for the sake of proving a point. But I’m hoping for some bright and sunny yellows next summer.

Autumn light (and temps) being the norm now for the next 6 months, I don’t know how much point there is in making a sun proofing test since most days will probably be grey and dark, so I’m wondering how else to figure out colour fastness. Any ideas?

* Honey that has not been heated before bottling has antifungal and antibacterial qualities.

In case I end up with leftovers – would anybody be interested in buying very very limited edition collections of homemade “primitive” paints in whichever form I settle on? (Mostly because it would be a fun thing to do, especially if I get feedback) You’re most welcome to take the polls even if you think it’ll just be window shopping.

I’m leaning towards watercolour pans and wax crayons/oil bars myself as the easiest/cheapest thing to ship.

Anyone who votes and elaborates in the comments will be in the lottery for a selection of watercolour pans all made from plants in my garden, free shipping anywhere.

Did you know that many famous painters of old didn’t care AT ALL if their paints were archival? JMW Turner always used the brightest, newest paints as they were invented, even if they faded within a year. The paintings of van Gogh also looked quite different when they were fresh compared to the colours we are seeing on his paintings today.