I’m guessing from the usual underwhelming number of poll participants that my readers A: don’t enjoy surveys and B: I still need to find a different way of financing my interests. Duly noted! 😁 😂 🙄
So to follow the path of least resistance I should probably turn myself in another direction… or let’s face it, that path could turn out to be even harder once I’m on it or the very least drearier, greyer and more soul sucking than the stuff my brain cooks up in the studio. My mum is certain that if only I’d had a couple of kids I would have matured properly instead of focusing so much on happiness! (I certainly would have been too tired to, seeing as I didn’t have much luck meeting dad-talented* partners in my 20’s, so I would have been hustling for survival, not the meaning of life)
This week my curiosity led me to confirm that elderberries do not contain actual pigment to be extracted (within reasonable means anyway). What else produces the deep, brilliant red is beyond me, I fall asleep instantly if I try to read about actual chemistry and molecule compositions. So I know for certain that is not my destiny either; despite the periodic table appearing frequently in crosswords I cannot for the life of me remember more than 2-3 elements at a time. And I have to think a moment on those, oxygen being the only one that comes natural, which kinda makes sense from an esoteric perspective, right?
Anyway, I actually just wanted to share these memes.
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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.
Rainy grey day today, a reminder that soon, soon, I’ll want to stay indoors for days on end, playing rotisserie in front of the wood stove, rushing through and not around the outside of the barn to get to my studio upstairs. Thinking in muted tones and drinking buckets of tea, layering up in wool sweaters and socks.
Only a week ago I was in the hammock on a beautiful warm, quiet day with that certain something in the air that is no longer summer – not the least an unusual gathering of birdies doing acrobatics over the garden. It took me a long while to realize that I had brought my phone for a change and that it does in fact make videos (because forget taking a still photo of the little speedsters).
Didn’t get ready today to show you a full version of my pigment experiment as planned, as I’ve had other things to attend to. So I thought I’d show you my latest finding, a book press which I thought could help me get water out of new paper sheets, rather than stacking cinderblocks on the floor. One way of tackling multiple projects could be doing so as efficiently as possible!
During an investigation into using dry pigments and beeswax for painting rather than oilpaints, which I’m not enjoying, I’d been reading about making lake pigments and thought it would be fun to give it a try. These are pigments from plants as opposed to rock/earth/metal based colours, and since I already had some remedies as well as dried plant materials for dyeing wool, it wasn’t too much trouble to give it a try.
Last week I mentioned the absurdity of a health challenged person embarking on time consuming physical tasks such as gathering natural malerials, making paper, prepping and studying new branches of the art tree, and it surprised me that nobody mentioned “productive procrastination” aka Resistance. (dah-dah-DAAAAA)
It hasn’t rained here in 3 months and has been unusually hot too, so most blooming things are over and done with if they have even survived. I’m glad I didn’t make a dye garden this year, as the cost of watering would have been massive.