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earth pigments and handmade paint  RSS feed

 
Posts: 25
Location: northwest AR (USA)
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Hi, I make my watercolors from stones, clay, and a few of the light-fast plants I've found here in the Ozarks. Would love to share and discuss this topic with others who make or are interested in making paints. I'm going to be short on time to reply in depth or often until the end of November, but in the meantime I'll be able to drop by and contribute some between now and then.

I have some blog posts about making the paint and the media for watercolor here: (Updated with links to new website!)

https://www.paleopaints.com/make-your-own-watercolor/
https://www.paleopaints.com/media/

My favorite painting so far is attached to this post. This uses entirely Ozark colors. You can see some of the other paintings I've done with my colors here:

https://www.paleopaints.com/painting/



For the most part, I use only my local resources. But we don't have anything light-fast to make blue or green, so for those I use other stones or minerals or clay from other areas. For green I'm using French green clay and for blue I'm using lapis lazuli. I try to not use much blue at all because the stone is expensive and I only have a few rocks of it my husband brought me while he was working in Afghanistan.

Are any of you out there using your local sources to make paints? I know it's common with fiber artists to dye their own fibers. With painting, there are a lot of colors available, but not so many outside of the brown/yellow ranges that are light fast. The earth pigments (from stone or clay) are very light-fast, but I've only found sassafras and black gum so far as light fast plant sources. I suspect that maple and sweet gum might also be good sources, but haven't had time to test them yet.
Kestrel-No-3-print-600px.jpg
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Kestrel no. 3
 
pollinator
Posts: 112
Location: acadian peninsula, New Brunswick, Canada
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This is amazing! We have green sandstone here I have to try.
 
Madison Woods
Posts: 25
Location: northwest AR (USA)
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Francis - Awesome! Post some pics to show how it does. I would be interested in trading some rocks with you for some :) I'm in the middle of a big project right now but will be finished by the end of November. That's when I'll be getting back to the paint making in full throttle mode :)
 
Posts: 2
Location: SE Oklahoma
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Madison, I registered just to suggest that you try using the sap from wild cherry trees growing in the Ozarks instead of gum arabic. You can use the sap from any Prunus tree to make your binder. I get the balls that ooze from my peach tree to make watercolor binder and the paint is fine. If your binder is also sourced locally, your paint will be that much more authentically local.
 
Madison Woods
Posts: 25
Location: northwest AR (USA)
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Cindy - thank you!! I've been looking at sweet gum resin, too, but just haven't had time to experiment with it yet. That was the plan, to have a paint entirely of the Ozarks! Oh, I can't wait to start collecting the sap too now.
 
gardener
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Location: SW Missouri
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Cindy McKee wrote:Madison, I registered just to suggest that you try using the sap from wild cherry trees growing in the Ozarks instead of gum arabic. You can use the sap from any Prunus tree to make your binder. I get the balls that ooze from my peach tree to make watercolor binder and the paint is fine. If your binder is also sourced locally, your paint will be that much more authentically local.



Welcome to Permies! Hope you stay around, sounds like you have great information to share, we always want to hear cool info :)
 
Madison Woods
Posts: 25
Location: northwest AR (USA)
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My website is still down, but it's beginning to show some sporadic signs of life. If it's not back up by tomorrow I'll see if I can dig those posts out of the database and move them to another site I have under construction just for the Paleo Paints and art.
 
Madison Woods
Posts: 25
Location: northwest AR (USA)
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Here’s a rock I found the other day that will make a good color.
BD06969D-53CC-4969-91E4-B16EC31B2756.jpeg
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Cindy McKee
Posts: 2
Location: SE Oklahoma
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BTW, I love your kestrel.
You (We) can use fugitive plant dyes to make a traditional painting, photograph it and make tons of prints from the photo, while the original painting fades.
That way, lots of native plants can be represented.
I say that, because I have trouble mulling clay pigments. I have to use them in casein binder. Rocks are something I haven't even tried.
 
Madison Woods
Posts: 25
Location: northwest AR (USA)
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Thanks :) The kestrel used russet sandstone, wood char, creek shale, and landslide clay. The clay is some that turned up in a landslide we had in 2015 on our property. A whole bench came down, and found a really nice lepidodendron fossil in it too. I will probably eventually use all those fugitive colors too, because some are really nice. But for the sake of building some income, people seem to want originals. I do scan everything though, and then also make note cards, prints, and even stickers from them. The crow stickers have been really popular.

What gives you the trouble with mulling clay? I start with it dried and powdered and sieved. and it does get sticky while mulling so I tend to make it a little wetter, even to the point of just mixing it with a spatula in a small jar so it can be of a pourable consistency if it's really giving me trouble.

I'm working on getting some cherry sap to try btw. We have a lot of wild cherries here! A friend is going to try and gather it. Do you know if the sticky balls will form at this time of year or only in spring?

To use the rocks, I pulverize them in the mortar/pestle.

My website is still having problems, and I've made things a little worse before they're going to get better. So I'm transferring those posts over to the new site as I get time. Also trying to get ready for a big festival coming up and have a lot more to do with that. I so want to get back to the painting and paintmaking. It's going to be a while yet.
 
Posts: 103
Location: Zone 3-4 (usually 4) Western South Dakota, central Black Hills
23
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Have you folks tried using honey as a binder? I’m not making my own paints (though I may since you have inspired me, when I have more time), but my favorite commercial brand uses honey as its binder. BTW, very impressed with your beautiful kestrel! Just lovely.
 
Madison Woods
Posts: 25
Location: northwest AR (USA)
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Cindy Skillman wrote:Have you folks tried using honey as a binder? I’m not making my own paints (though I may since you have inspired me, when I have more time), but my favorite commercial brand uses honey as its binder. BTW, very impressed with your beautiful kestrel! Just lovely.



Hi Cindy, I do use honey in the media, but honey by itself would just remain very sticky and never dry. It's the gum that actually does the binding, but gum Arabic is only one of the gum possibilities that can be used. It just has to be a water soluble gum. One of the other commenters above mentioned that they use the peach or wild cherry gums and high on my list of things to try this year are some of our native binder possibilities. I'm really hoping the sweet gum yields a good binder, since we have so many of those trees here. I'm glad you love the kestrel! Right now I'm working on a series of Twisted Trees and I'm really loving those. On my list of things to do soon is to make my own oil colors using the same pigments, and a goshawk is first on the list of things I want to paint next. Keep in touch and let us know how it goes when you start making some paints!

Here's a Twisted Tree monochrome done in the color I got from a tan colored sandstone. It made a beautiful earthy yellow. I'm not finished with one of the roots in this photo, but you can see where it's going :)

web.jpg
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Francis Mallet
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Posts: 112
Location: acadian peninsula, New Brunswick, Canada
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Madison Woods wrote:Francis - Awesome! Post some pics to show how it does.


You asked for it :P

After I saw this post I built myself a rock crusher. It's like the 3rd time in my life that I got to use a stick welder it was fun!



Then I went to the beach and picked up rocks :)
I always loved picking rocks and now I've got a reason to do it lol



After a couple of whacks



All done! Still gritty but surprisingly fine. It turned out more gray than white.
I also picked up sun bleached seashells. Those are very white I'm curious about how they'll do.



A nice purple one with dark veins. We have lots of pretty rocks on the beach.
It's quite difficult to capture accurate colors with my phone.



This is fun :) I wonder how the color will change once I make paint.



I received a stainless steel mortar last week, I have gum arabic and clove oil. Now I just need time.  I tried grinding the white rock in my mortar and with some work I can get a very fine dust. I'm excited about grinding the purple one too!
I don't think I'm committed enough for a muller just yet, they are expensive and I'm a bit like a weather vane (who knows what I'll be into next spring).

This has made me aware of my region's geology, things that were invisible to me before. Thank you for bringing more color into my life Madison :)
 
Madison Woods
Posts: 25
Location: northwest AR (USA)
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OMG Francis, I'm so jealous of your rock crusher!! You could skip the stainless mortar and go straight to porcelain with something like that doing your initial crushing. I have to use a hammer on the pestle in my stainless mortar just to crack the rocks to coarse powder. Now I'm going to have to recruit my son to make me something like that. I think with a larger sized pipe section with a bottom to put it down into, that's pretty much a super-sized mortar and pestle combo. But maybe one a wee bit lighter would do the trick for me, lol.

If you like to paint, once you make your colors maybe you'll be hooked for life and that muller will begin to be more enticing. Just don't get the larger sizes or you'll need a huge plate to mull on. I made that mistake, thinking I'd just get the bigger one so I wouldn't have to scale up later. Well, it's just too big for working on my kitchen counter so I got the medium, which works, but I'd still prefer the mini, I think. So after the first two outlays of money, I'm going to wait until I make some money before I buy the mini.

I love the colors of your rock pigments. Thanks for sharing your experiment! Tomorrow I'll be working on more colors and making some prints, stickers and note cards from the tree I just finished painting. My little Etsy shop is just beginning to get some visitors so I am being optimistic in my 'getting ready' to make sales, lol.
 
Francis Mallet
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Thanks Madison. I got the idea from rustic andy over at lumberjocks.  (Rock crushers for inlay)

Mine is too tight a fit, it's more like a piston than a pestle. I intended to use it by hand but then it will send puffs of minerals flying in the air. I don't want to breathe that stuff! Instead I I load a bit of rock in the cylinder then put back the piston and whack it good with a small sledgehammer.

First attempt :)


Some notes for next time:
I don't like the stainless mortar. It stained my hands black and I feel it put some gray in my pigments. I'll try with a porcelain one next time.
I should have filtered the dissolved gum because there is crap and undissolved crystals in my media.
And I think understand the need for a muller now, the dried paint feels coarse compared with my pigments. (pigment clumps?)
 
Cindy Skillman
Posts: 103
Location: Zone 3-4 (usually 4) Western South Dakota, central Black Hills
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I wanted to weigh in on grinding rocks. If crushing and screening them is working well for you, then just ignore me. (LOL) But if it’s giving you fits, you might try a rudimentary ball mill to reduce your well-crushed rock to a fine powder.

I’ve wanted a ball mill for quite a while for fine-grinding pottery glazes, but of course at that size they’re ridiculously expensive. However, for small quantities I think a hobby rock tumbler would work well. You put your colored minerals in along with some small ball bearings (or similar) and grind away. How long it takes will depend on the hardness of your chosen mineral(s). I’m not sure (like I said, I never actually did it) but it’s possible you may also need to add water. I’d try it without water first, though. Fewer steps involved that way, and no messing around with drying out the resultant fine sediment (aka your pigment). (Edit: you do use water... see the video I posted a little ways down.)

If you don’t want to buy/scrounge a rock tumbler, you could also try this: https://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-Ball-Mill-in-5-Minutes/

(Edit: The author of the link suggests (among other things) using lead balls. I wouldn’t do that... too soft and of course, toxic. Stick with steel or other hard, nontoxic metals. Tiny glass or ceramic beads may also work, depending on how dense/hard your minerals are.)
 
Madison Woods
Posts: 25
Location: northwest AR (USA)
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Love the colors. My stainless isn’t losing color but I wonder if eventually it will and think I should find some other way to do the initial grinding too. I have a small porcelain one I use for finer grinding. The muller does grind it further but some of the paints are still grainy after mulling. Mainly what it does is mix the pigment more thoroughly into the media. Some stones do grind down much finer than others, too. So much more experimenting I want to do and so much more to learn. I know someone using a rock polisher with stainless steel balls to make it work like a ball mill and it gives a really fine powder result. But then again it’s using metal that may stain gray too.

Edited to add:

I only have my phone right now and replies are a pain to do but I just also saw the comment from you Cindy- the tumbler idea is one I want to try too. I might see if the porcelain balls work.
 
Cindy Skillman
Posts: 103
Location: Zone 3-4 (usually 4) Western South Dakota, central Black Hills
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I just stumbled across a YouTube video where they’re using a tumbler/ball mill, and they *are* using water.

 
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PEP1 Certification workshop/gathering/event May/June 2019
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