I have had the most transformative week, a true revelation, learning to make colors from natural raw materials under the guidance of David Cranswick. Here’s a flying tour of the genesis of true artist pigments.
The alchemist’s lab
The three copper stones we’re starting with: malachite, chrysocolla
and azurite, alongside lapis lazuli (lower right).
Grinding the stone to a powder.
Wash and repeat.
Much later, the dried powder is ground with a medium to make watercolor, egg tempera or oil paint.
Homemade malachite watercolor
The product of sulphur meeting mercury, exploding with such strength it generates these rocks. What’s not to love?
Grinding this is going to be a little more difficult…
Adding lye to extract the color…
Time to strain the dye.
This is ready to dye cloth with. But to use it in paint we have to turn this into a solid…
Here comes the alum!
12 hours later… Time to strain again, butthis time we want to keep the solid.
So we proceed as if making strained cheese..
Many more hours later, this is what it will look like.
Much grinding later, we finally have paint.
The legendary red of carpets, now ready to be painted with.
This one will surprise you.
Now clearly violet…
Almost black tomorrow (left).
A whole other process, this is an ink and always in solution.
Testing with different proportions of gum arabic. This ink is nearly clear when brushed, then darkens dramatically on the paper.
The resin is ready, and so is… the sugar.
Add hot water to make the oldest binding agent in the world.
Ochre yellow, an earth color.
Add gum arabic…
… and start grinding.
Repeating with burnt sienna…
Passing the yolk from hand to hand till it’s ready.
The delicate part…
Testing with egg tempera.
Grinding yellow ochre again, this time with linseed oil, produces this beautiful consistency, like soft butter.
Now to tube it.
Lead white is quite a bit tougher to grind…
This spectacular color, minium, is obtained by heating lead white. That’s all. Just magical.
Final result of 5 days of intense work: This beautiful natural palette and so much inspiration.