My Geographic Palette #5 – Australian Ochre

17 Aug

ochre 9

This Australian Ochre is the fifth pigment I’m trying out from my geographic palette – plants and minerals from different places that I’m converting into paint and/or ink. I’m using them to develop work that I’m doing with Swansea University’s FIRE Lab project, which brings together science and the arts to do research and engagement along Swansea’s River Tawe. The ochre is in the little bag at the bottom of the picture.


I was very moved to be gifted this Australian ochre which was collected by Aunty Anna Duncan, a Gomeroi/Kamilaroi artist. She gave the ochre to researcher Emily O’Gorman to bring to Swansea and collected it from a dry river bed near Terri Hei Hei (part of her Country) in north-western New South Wales, a special area that includes very old grinding grooves near a long-dry creek, a birthing tree, some grave sites, and a colonial-Aboriginal mission. Aunty Anna collected the ochre in the traditional way to ensure that it is spiritually safe. I am honoured to receive it and excited to use it.


I put a couple of the smaller fragments into a small pestle and mortar (bought in Pakistan and marble I think) and crushed them – they are much harder than I was expecting and there was a lot of grit in the powder at the end which I think was the marble not the ochre!!!



I looked up some tips for how to turn it into paint – traditionally it is ground up and mixed with spittle or blood, but I decided to adapt a recipe for printing ink from Shannon Yost and added some gin and water to the powder, mixing it well. Then I mixed in a dob of Japanese Nori paste, which is made from seaweed. Finally, I put some of the rather stiff mixture into a small pot and added more water to make it thin enough to use with a brush.


ochre 7

I did a quick brushwork sketch based on some sketchbook drawings inspired by culverts I had visited in the Brecon Beacons a few weeks ago with colleagues in the FIRE Lab team. It worked beautifully – the pigment is thin enough to flow but thick enough to hold the brushstrokes and give a wide variation of density and colour. Well chuffed. I used a Langdon watercolour paper, 300 gsm and quite heavily textured.


Here’s a link to one of the FIRE Lab blogs – this is about a regular Twitter game about Dams.


13 Responses to “My Geographic Palette #5 – Australian Ochre”

  1. nataliekatona August 18, 2019 at 20:38 #

    This looks amazing, how are you collaborating with scientists at Swansea?

    • Rosie Scribblah August 19, 2019 at 12:26 #

      Thanks Natalie. I’m currently doing an art residency with the FIRE Lab project at Swansea University, working alongside the scientists. It’s fascinating. Rose 🙂

      • nataliekatona August 20, 2019 at 17:06 #

        Are you updating your collab on this blog or do you have another site, it’s such a good idea

    • Rosie Scribblah August 22, 2019 at 11:16 #

      That’s the next phase, Natalie. I’ll be linking with the FIRE Lab blog and doing collaborative posts as we get stuck in … 😀

  2. Bernard Mitchell August 18, 2019 at 16:00 #

    Hi Rose, I am away till Tuesday will call you then.
    Cheers Bernard

    Sent from my iPad

  3. Alli Farkas August 18, 2019 at 02:21 #

    Spittle, blood, gin, and nori paste are not things I would normally associate with paint. Interesting!

    • Rosie Scribblah August 19, 2019 at 12:53 #

      I’m working onto paper so I’m not too keen on using oil and egg tempera is so fiddly so I settled for the Nori.

  4. Lois August 17, 2019 at 22:47 #

    So interesting! I’m in a geology group (I don’t know much about it but it’s jolly interesting!) and we went to an old worked out ochre mine in Somerset a couple of months ago, yellow and red ochre. In June when I was in the Netherlands we visited a village which has dozens of windmills, and one of them was for milling ochre! I’ll share your post with the others in the geology group!

Please Leave a Reply. Thank You.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: