I went to a sustainable carpenter with my aunt who was looking for a piece of wood to make a table, it was amazing! The carpenter explained how he worked with the material and that he had never cut down a tree, but used fallen trees from the woods. He has made a reputation for himself and now every time someone sees a fallen tree, they inform him and he goes there and removes it.
He only works with high quality wood and while he was telling me the names of the trees, I remembered that most of them are good for ink making. He gave me some cutoffs of Brazil wood, (I am particularly excited with this one, after all, its what gave my country name! In Portuguese its called "pau brasil" "Brasil wood") and also pieces of Jatobá tree and Carvoeiro tree.
I keped them and was very curious to test it, even if it wasn't possible to use in this season.
We are having a strong rainy season over here, which makes the plan of exploring surrounding area's ground a little bit difficult. I was trying to do it while on waterfall trails but it was becoming dangerous so had to search in the town itself. This wasn't too much of a problem as most of the streets are not paved.
I collected 2 different kind of earth from the roads near a building materials warehouse ( one of them was too wet so I couldn't use this it, but I'm drying it to test it later) and two different kinds of rock from near my house (one of them had the aspect of clay).
I read the pdfs program but I was unsure about many steps. First I bought white glue, which is what is normally used to make paints with earth but them I realize it wasn't the right because it’s not natural and I wasn't reusing anything. But I also could not find any Arabic gum or any binder. Ian told me I could use honey and this solved the problem. I had the water for the stone watercolor, the egg yolk for the tempera and the honey for the gouache.
First of all I smashed the stones with a hammer and sifted it with a kitchen sieve. I knew it would be easy to do this with the clay like material, but I was surprised how easy it was to smash the purple stone. Also, I was planning to use only water with this pigment but then I realize it might be a good idea to try with honey and egg yolk as well.
With the pieces of wood I did the same natural dye process, but with less water and more concentrated than the process we did in the simple ink.
With all the pigments ready to mix with the binder, I separate each one in 3 different recipients. ( one to mix with honey, another with yolk and one more to water.)
I added the yolk to the three different kinds of earth and three different dyes made of wood. The same with honey and with water.
The result was very interesting, the honey gave the aspect of oil painting, it's very bright! And the yolk got doughy.
Tempera with dye - It seems that the only dye that worked was the carvoeiro one. The brazil wood and the jatoba resulted in simular colours and it didn't get pasty. I think ii didn't boil them enough or something like this, because I added more yolk and it didn’t change. The Carvoeiro one got a pastel color but when it dyed on the paper got a lot darker! Very nice!
(In order from the left to right; brazil wood dye, carvoeiro dye, yolk and carvoeiro dye, the dyes with honey and with yolk)
Tempera with stone: The stone was a lot different, all of them got a very nice stick and texture. All of them were smooth and thick. Now thinking I guess I had to add a little bit of water, depending the on texture you want to have.
I also decided to try with condiments I had in the kitchen such as saffron and paprika. It got even more thick than the ones with earth, but got a nice look and a more vibrant color.
GAUCHE with honey
(I am not sure if this this the right gauche because the gauche pdf’s did not open)
Gauche with dye - It didn't work at all! The first two got watery and didn't seem to keep the color and the pigment, the one that worked out ( the carvoeiro dye) had a nice texture on paper and also a nice color but still wet until now ( I did the experience the day before writhing this).
Gauche with stone - Here, they appeared to have more texture and where grainier than the experience with the yolk. I didn't have appropriate paper, so I used a normal, basic canson. The paper got a little greasy, but curiously it did not happened with the dye experiment. Why did it become oily with a different pigment if the binder is the same?
Also, if the pigment has a natural graininess, with yolk it got integrate and with honey it didn’t. It seems like the grains will follow with time.
Watercolor with rock - It's very impressive how different the color of this pigment gets with water, when I used the honey and the yolk I got similar colors if compared with this binder. They were pastel tones and looked like was painting with clay (which makes sense). It has a nice texture but it didn’t slide on the paper. Also, the carvoeiro dye got a nicer look than with the yolk and honey. The earth with water looks more concentrated than the other experiments.
Watercolor with dye - Using the dye as an ink was the best option for this pigment ( despite the carvoeiro one). You can see the color, the texture and the difference of the color between the jatoba and brazil wood which wasn’t possible when using the other binders. In fact the jatoba resulted in a very, very light color. The brazil wood had a nice color, that makes me think that it would work perfectly on fabric. I am going to try it before next season and share the results!
Watercolor with coffee - I haven't finished this one yet. I made a strong coffee and put small layers of it in a jar. I wait until it dries and then put
another layer on top. So, it’s a long process and still in progress.
It's so incredible, the more we play the more we want to do it!
Working with natural pigments is like discovering a completely new world.
I feel an impulse to experiment with every single thing. The wood, stones, earth and clay. Its like rediscovering the landscape and I have a difference experience while I walk around in the city or in the woods.
Since this online workshop began, I have felt that I am having a different outlook about everything.
The way I see earth and botany, has changed.
The way I see art has also changed!
All these seasons are giving me a new way of living but also a new way to enjoy the world.
When we make the dyes, we look for different parts of the tree. We have the fruit, the seed, the bark, the trunk and the leaves.
When we boiled them, their perfume spreads all over the house. Some of them with pleasant aromas and another not so much.
we step on the ground and feel the grains, the color, the texture and once again, the aroma. We perceive that some rocks are easier to find near t rivers and think about how to paint with all this information and feeling. It's amazing!
I mean! We always knew all those things; the forest and what build it up, but when we walk around with experience and information, it's a very different experience.
Another day I did a botany course, where I learnt about the names of the plants, their history and how to use them. It changed everything. We walked in the woods, we recognise the plants or not, and when you know every single name and their qualities, its inspiring. The experience becomes more than just " walking in the woods". Its also walking in a library, in a laboratory.
We walk in life and in the world as lay people and discover the fascinating knowledge about little things and little pleasures.
I'll give another example that will make my works clearer. I was walking around with a friend here in Brazilian savanna and he stopped to look at a landscape. He had tears on his eyes and the said is was so beautiful.
The landscape he was looking at was a huge area of just soy, one of the principal factors that is destroying the Brazilian savana.
Everything is beautiful when we don't have information.
I was excited for this season and I am still! It was amazing and I have the urge to try more and more. It was a nice first experiment. And I think it will be nice to try with beeswax, which is the technique I am searching for since the beginning.
I didn’t have beeswax here, but as I am going to the big city to spend Christmas with my family, I will search for it. Also it will be nice to try the natural pigment in another environment. There I will be in the Atlantic forest, lets what I will discover!
Also, after reading the experiences of Madelyn I realize I didn’t add anything to preserve the ink and that I could use other kinds of stones. At the start my travel to the big city, I took a ride with a geologist, which changed my outlook about rocks and natural pigments. We had many ideas on the trip!! Also, he has all the machines to cut and grind condense stones. When I am back home in January, I am gonna try with these materials and put into practice the ideas we had. When I was saying goodbye to him, he gave me some magnesium as a present to make black inks.
So, next time I will try to add it and also play with the PH to discover different colors with the same ink and I hope to have many new things to show very soon.