Tag Archives: mineral pigments

Yellow Stone Blue Sheep

23 Aug

 

August Tawe source

Husb and I had a couple of days away in mid-Wales and drove back along the old unnamed road between Trecastell and Tafarn-y-Garreg in the Brecon Beacons where we stopped near the source of the River Tawe. We only had time for a short walk so we followed a dry stream bed down the hill and came across patches of bright yellowy brown. There were two types, one a fairly hard stone and the other a softer, crumbly clay. I left a coin in exchange – just in case there’s one of the Gwragedd Annwn thereabouts – and brought them home to try and make usable pigments with them.

That’s my weekend sorted! I’ll link this with my work in the FIRE Lab at Swansea University.

blue sheep

And then we saw some bright blue sheep!

 

 

 

 

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.
equipment

 

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.

 

OOOH….

16 Aug

equipment

What am I going to do with this little lot then? Something to do with my geographic palette …….

 

 

 

My Geographic Palette #4 – Graphite

24 Jul

graphite 4

The next one out of my geographic palette is graphite, a slightly greasy, slightly soluble solid black pigment and mineral found in The Lake District near Keswick, which is where I bought some nice chunky sticks of it and a whole load of top-quality graphite pencils. Not far from Keswick, at Seathwaite, is an old graphite mine which has been around since the late 16th century until it was abandoned in the late 19th century because cheaper graphite, although of inferior quality, could be imported, mainly from China.

tracing 5

Historically, this very pure graphite was used to mark sheep, still an important local industry. But it was used mostly for moulds to cast coins and cannonballs; it is said that it made such good cannonballs that it gave the British the edge over the French. When warfare moved on, someone had the bright idea of stuffing a thin wooden tube of wood with graphite and this kickstarted the famous pencil industry in Keswick which still has the Derwent factory and Pencil Museum. It’s a fabulous little gem of a museum, so informative and a great place for graphite geeks to hang out. Graphite pencils are a relatively late invention; back in the day, artists drew with charcoal, red lead, silverpoint and chalk.

 

Using a 6B block of graphite, I drew into my A5 spiral bound Bockingford sketchbook, using both the flat side and pointed tip of the graphite to get different textures. Then I took a watercolour brush dipped in water and rubbed areas of the graphite to create soft washes directly onto the paper. Then, while the paper was still wet, I drew into the damp areas which gave me more lines and textures.

This is based on a sketch I did en plein air on a field trip with colleagues from The FIRE Lab, near the source of the River Tawe. It’s a culvert – I’m falling in love with culverts, who’d have thought it? Please check out the FIRE Lab blog here – it’s a good read.

 

 

My Geographic Palette #3 – Walnut Ink

23 Jul

 

culvert 1a

About 3 or 4 years now some friends gave me a bag of fresh walnuts – that’s walnut fruit – the nut is in the centre of an apple sized green fruit. I made my own walnut ink from them, please click here if you want to see the technique I used.

 

 

Anyway, I used it to work up a painting using ink washes of different intensity based on one of my original sketches of culverts way up in the Brecon Beacons. I was on a field trip with colleagues from The FIRE Lab a few weeks ago and I’m using those sketches to develop a new body of artwork.

The ink looks lovely when it dries out – it rehydrates as well so it doesn’t go to waste.

walnut ink dry

The FIRE Lab has some great blog posts, check out this one about the technology of the Tawe Path walk.

 

 

 

 

My Geographic Palette #2 – Bideford Black

22 Jul

 

Bideford 4

So, day 2 of drawing from my geographic palette. This is Bideford Black, an unique oily carbon-based pigment from North Devon, where is sits in the ground next to anthracite coal. It was mined for about 200 years up until the late 1960s but lost out to cheaper competitors and the mines closed. I was sent some by artists based near the geological seams a while back, in exchange for some of my homemade walnut ink. It’s quite greasy to draw with and a bit crumbly, and when used dry it looks a bit like a dense charcoal on paper.

 

 

I put some bits into a pestle and mortar and crushed it – surprisingly tough – into a fine powder and mixed it with water to experiment into an A5 300gsm Waterford sketchbook. I like the result. It’s a dense black – I watered it down quite a bit – and it flows easily. I based the little drawing on a sketch I’d done a few weeks back while I was out on a field trip near the source of the River Tawe with colleagues from the FIRE Lab team from Swansea University. FIRE Lab has a cool website with some great blogs – here’s one on walking the River Tawe path.

 

 

 

My Geographic Palette #1 – Charcoal

21 Jul

charcoal 2

 

This is my first tryout with my geographic palette, a drawing based on a sketch I did en plein air on a field trip with colleagues from Swansea University’s FIRE Lab a couple of months ago when we went off exploring culverts up in the Brecon Beacons.

 

The charcoal I bought a few years back when I visited John Ruskin’s house, Brantwood, at Coniston Water in the Lake District. At the time they made charcoal from willow grown on the estate, using traditional methods. It’s quite crumbly and benefits from being used with a heavyweight textured paper. I’m using a 300gsm Bockingford here and I’m pleased with the results, lots of tonal variation depending on the pressure I’ve used. It’s only a small drawing, I’m using an A5 size sketchbook, spiral bound from Pink Pig in Barnsley, and I’m abstracting away from the original which is starting to excite me.

 

 

 

 

My Geographic Palette

20 Jul

Geographic Palette small

I’m thinking about how to develop from the sketches I’ve done on a couple of field trips with colleagues in the FIRE Lab team and, as the research project is about ecosystems and environment, I thought I’d try as much as possible to use natural earths, plants and minerals in my artworks, so I’m putting together a geographic palette. I’ve made a pretty good start already, with graphite, lapis lazuli, ochre, charcoal, Bideford Black, some red sandstone and my own home-made walnut ink.

Over the next few days I’ll be researching and writing about them so watch this space …. 🙂

 

 

 

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