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A tiny bit of blue pigment extracted from Commelina communis petals.

Chasing the Blue Pigment

I had almost resigned myself to never having an Ozark source for a stable blue pigment. I’d tried various flowers around here, like chicory, and hoped the blue porcelain berry skins would have given me blue. None of the rocks have even the slightest hint of blue (except for the one that looked grayish blue in the test scrape on a wet gray rock). In my art, I’ve simply skipped the blue. For skies, I used a combination of gray or other colors to suggest sunsets or sunrise, or stormy skies.

Every time I thought – this might be it – my hopes were later dashed. Usually when the color faded from the paper in a matter of days, or turned an ugly brown. So I am trying to not get too excited about the blue petals of Commelina communis. But as the weeks pass since I first swatched a bit of blue directly from the squashed petals onto a paper, it’s getting harder to contain the excitement. The paper’s been hanging outside with sunlight exposure for a few weeks now… and the blue pigment is still the same blue.

Although this dayflower isn’t an Ozark native, it is naturalized here. The flower petals have a history of use in Japan, and there’s a very interesting procedure for storing the color.

So, I’ve officially begun the testing phase for this possible blue pigment and paint. I’ve made an entry over on my color journal at PaleoPaints.com to record my progress with this. If the test works, then I’ll try to encourage more of this plant to grow here so it won’t take me so long to make a little bit of blue paint.

Keep your fingers crossed! (But don’t hold your breath. The flowers are not that plentiful right here and I need to collect a lot more of them.)

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janet
6 September 2020 11:50 am

That’s exciting news, Madison. Blue is such a happy color. I hope this works for you.

janet

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