Extracting natural pigments from earth, rocks and roots
I had a fantastic week in London last week, extracting natural pigments from various plants and stones. These are the pigments that would have been used in the past, before our synthetic colours were discovered as by-products of the industrial revolution.
The traditional methods of transforming raw materials into paint would originally have been part of an artist’s training, and pigment preparation was seen as an integral part of the painting process. How different to today, where we order a tube of chemicals online!
Our tutor was David Cranswick, who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of traditional painting techniques which he shares generously.
We turned this
Washed a yellow ochre out of a lump of iron stone
Made pigments from madder root, weld, cochineal and Persian berry
Black from bone
and vine stems
and finished up by making a lovely black ink from oak galls.
Having extracted the pigments we made them into watercolour and oil paint to take home.
I will never think about colour in quite the same way again and will be on the lookout for good stones to grind locally! I’m currently doing an egg tempera painting using the pigments I produced last week, which is incredibly satisfying.
If you fancy doing the course, it was organised by the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts and held in David’s studio in Hackney Wick, London.