Sunday, March 23, 2014

Natural Plant Pigments

I spent the day at the Berkeley Botanical Gardens, at a workshop taught by Judi Pettite on the making of, and use of plant pigments in dyes and inks. To those of you who have been following me for a while, you know I'm a big fan of the natural plant pigments that Kremer Pigments used to sell. They've since discontinued that line. But something about plant pigments has really drawn me in. I've been meaning to try and make my own Nettle pigment at some point, and after this workshop, I definitely want to make it, as well as many others.


Generally, you take plant matter, make an infusion in water, reduce, dry, grind, to create pigment. From there, various binders can be added to create the paint medium of choice (Gum arabic, for watercolors). I was surprised at the range of plants that could be used, and rather pleased that one of the banes of my backyard gardening existence (oxalis) can be used to make a very pretty yellow color, simply by soaking the flowers in water for a couple of days.

Japanese maples can be used for a variety of colors ranging from browns and reds to purples.
 
Oak galls, or black walnut hulls can be crushed and soaked in water for a week, then boiled, reduced, and dried, for a deep brown or black.

The artist geek in me was very happy to play with all the bottles and jars of powders, pastes, and dyes.


* * *

Watching a demonstration of how to apply the pigment and make it into a printmaking ink. This involved grinding and mixing with gum arabic, water, and sodium alginate (an emulsifier that adds a kind of tacky viscosity to the ink).

Experimenting. Eye-dropped some oxalis dye onto a wash. I liked how the yellow droplets gleamed like gold.

Further experimentation. Crow quill pen dipped into brazilwood ink, wet in wet with eye-dropped oxalis dye.

Playing with linocuts. Quick little birdy, charged up with indigo ink.
 

* * *

At the end of the day:




15 comments:

  1. That's very interesting! :) Might have to look into making my own dyes one day too. :) Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Steph... What are the archival properties like with these pigments. Beet root would be good, I would think. Funny enough, I was just recently thinking of using a Lino cut to place the glue for the gold leaf on artwork, since my first attempt was a bit rough...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This was just a mini linocut, few minutes on a rubber eraser. But fun! Archival would greatly vary from one pigment to the next, as each has individual properties.

      Delete
  3. These are beautiful inks. I love the idea that they are made by hand from plants that grow right in our yards. Do you know if the inks are light fast?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jan! It would greatly vary from one pigment to the next, as each has individual properties.

      Delete
  4. Very cool look and process. I really love the "flowers" done this way. it has a great feel!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thought it would be fun to paint some oxalis flowers using their own dye. :)

      Delete
  5. Absolutely delicious, thank you so much for sharing! LOVE those rich colors...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, the yellows were very rewarding, and the browns had such richness to them. I'm gonna have to start mushroom hunting to make more.

      Delete
  6. Oooh, these are lovely! Very strong colors :D

    ReplyDelete
  7. These are lovely! So glad you make a post where we could see more of what is involved.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Fun post, an loverly art! Thank you fpr an organic idea!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I make my own plant and mineral pigments as well :) The issue with lakes though is how fugitive they are -- too much so for professional use. As a rule, if it's not an established historical pigment, there's a good reason as the old artists and icon painters tested everything under the sun (otherwise how tempting it would be to paint with turmeric or hibiscus!) I play it safe, myself. But reading this, you don't precipitate the pigment into a solid? You use the dye itself?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just for the purposes of trying things out in this class, yes we used some of the dyes directly. But yah, for professional use would probably have to make a pigment

      Delete