Wild Inks & Paints: A Seasonal Palette

An art handbook exploring foraged plants & other gifts from nature. For professional artists as well as hobbyists and families.

Available in print (EU folks: head here) or as an e-book.
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Drawing on historical techniques for illumination and calligraphy from East and West, this handbook introduces you to the wonder of transforming natural matter into fully developed art supplies. Learn the basic chemistry behind colours and prepare inks, lakes, paints, pastes, binders, media and drawing tools from plants and materials foraged as the seasons turn, or already present in your kitchen cupboard.

The 134 pages are abundantly illustrated and tightly packed with recipes, techniques, and tips based on my personal testing of every one of them. The format is A5 and wire-bound to be totally practical to use in the studio or kitchen.

In my previous volume, I examined the art technology of a specific culture, which sought out the best materials and most precious pigments to the ends of the known world. This volume examines the other side of the spectrum: art technology relying almost entirely on what is locally available, requiring a renewed knowledge of our local area and its seasonality. Whether you’re an artist wanting to have a hand in the materials you use along traditional lines, or a hobbyist looking for to reconnect your creativity with nature (and involve your kids), you’ll find both inspiration and all the information you need.


PART 1: BASICS — Definitions, Binders (gum, egg, starch, milk), Assists & Modifiers (alkalis & acids including recipes to prepare your own, metal salts)

PART 2: PLANT COLOURS — Foraging ethics, Finding & storing, Plant colour chemistry, Dye extraction, Preservation (including making lakes and clothlets), The Colour year (50 plants, where to find them, what colours they yield and how best to work with them)

PART 3: PIGMENTS — Carbon blacks, Earth Colours, Calcite whites.

PART 4: MEDIA & TOOLS — Watercolour, Gouache, Impasto, Pastel and more; Curing and cutting Bamboo/reed pens and Quills

PART 5: PAPER — Priming, Dyeing, Sizing (various recipes), Ageing, and more.

APPENDICES — Cleaners, Testing methodology


A collection of verse markers

The following are all the different verse markers found in one 9th-century Qur’an, folios of which are kept in different collections:

The folios can all be seen in one place in this digital musḥaf (more info here). The close-ups below are taken from the BnF and Bodleian folios.

The markers for 1 and 5 verses are consistent throughout, but there is no system for the rest, each of which is unique or very nearly. I like to think someone had a lot of fun making them (although of course they could be the work of several people, each with their own style). From 10 on, the number is spelled out inside the rosette—hover over the images to see the captions, click for full-size images. Note also the beautiful prostration marker, placed conspicuously well outside the text box.

(With my eternal gratitude to institutions that digitise their manuscripts and make them available in high-res!)