Natural pigments

My interests are many as I mentioned last week, always keep branching out, and yet they also converge in convoluted ways. Besides my love of strong, bright colours, I also enjoy the palette of mother nature that I see change and return each year, season by season. It is after all a grey and brown world half the time. It puts ideas in my head for plant dyed wool, growing my garden, making paper from dried plants, for using earth pigments and ink only. Motifs of rocks, feathers, bark and moss. Runes and crows and moonlight.

I’ve been thinking that the beeswax and resin of cold wax medium would be a natural companion to natural pigments. Charcoal, ochre, iron oxide. I have a few, and now I’d like some input because there are a million choices when you look in a shop. For now I’ll refrain from using local dirt, since all we have here is common grey clay. I had no idea that you could actually buy umpteen versions of sienna and umber from various locations?! Just look at this list and be confused:

Kremer Earth Pigments

Which would you choose to build a smallish natural palette? I’m counting in plant dyes as well such as madder and indigo, or even whichever solutions have been used historically throughout the world. Tell me which colours you love and why. To look at and/or use in your art.

I have these so far. The 3 little ones are earth pigments from Iceland:

So I want a more yellow tone to try mixing in with the others, greens, and? Many to pick from. I get a kick out of choosing them by different locations too!

I also have a selection of dried plants I could try, but most of them only give up their colour when boiled. Aiming for lightfastness, so things like turmeric powder won’t be useful.

Cochineal* ground up with safflower oil and cwm:

I’m also pondering flakes of rust, bits of bark, wool, and of course there is the option of making your own brushes too from found objects. I should do a complete mindmap of all of my meanderings, just to see how flaky I really am…

Handmade paper with birch, woad, nettle and marigold leaves.

Of course this is yet another project that threatens a deep dive into research instead of action, but I never could resist a library book:

Victoria Finlay: The brilliant history of color in art & Color : a natural history of the palette
Bernard Guineau and Francois Delemare: “Colors: The Story of Dyes and Pigments”

This will either go somewhere or I’ll remain mildly curious – time will tell.


* Lice that live on the prickly pear cactus in S. America

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One thought on “Natural pigments

  1. Oooh…I love that Indigo
    Love the handmade paper. I would love to make some with all of the different grasses, especially the pink grass😘

    Liked by 1 person

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