It’s hard not to want to spend all my time making art with earthy colors, especially when I see super pigmented resources like this all around me every day. Just look at this rock.
I don’t know what took me so long to get started. The colors have been here all along, I’d just been too busy to really stop and notice the potential. And now I’m too busy exploring the potential to notice much else. Extracting the rich, earthy colors and figuring out how to apply them to a painting to make art occupies my every waking moment.
Not everything gets used in the same way. Rocks can be used in more than one application, too. Once it’s ground up, I can use the powder like a loose pastel to make nice background rubs. There are some paint-makers also using the fine portion of the rocks to make pastels. I could make oil paints instead of watercolors. And one day I would like to do that.
Some sources, like the incredible blue of the dayflowers I recently discovered, can only be stored and used in one way (that I know of at this time). The pigment is plant-based, so the method of getting the color is a bit different from when rocks are the source. There’s a lot more chemistry involved when dealing with the colors from plants.
But the art with earthy colors mainly is due to the rocks. Plant colors can be a lot brighter. They just don’t last as long (with a few exceptions).
Every morning I have a routine. First I feed the cat, then the horses. I put the empty feed buckets on the downhill slope of the driveway and do some stretching exercises. After that I head toward the mailbox.
Walking this route once served as my physical therapy routine for a torn ACL and meniscus. Now I slow-jog to the mailbox and walk back. Now, it’s a holistic maintenance routine.
Our driveway is 1/2 mile so if I go to the mailbox and back, that gives me a good mile of cross-country workout for my whole body and mind. There are rocks and hills, and creek crossings to pass. And I get to see a lot of earthy colors along the way.
Aside from watching for wildlife, I watch for feathers, fossils and signs of pigment. At this time of year I’m also watching the changing seasons. I love the transition from summer to autumn. It’s my favorite season.
Here’s a few of the pigment sights from this morning. I try to not actually gather these, because I already have too many at the house. But every once in a while, I add squats to my routine and take photos or gather the rocks.
Earthy Colors Leads to Earthy Art
So in the end, once the rocks are ground and made into paint, I am faced with a limited palette of earthy colors. Fortunately, most of the subjects I tend to paint naturally feature a lot of these colors. I just avoid the ones that would look too odd without the bright blues and greens. One day soon, though, I may actually get to incorporate judiciously applied bits of blue. In the meantime, this is what I do with all those earthy colors:
Madison Woods is a self-taught artist who moved to the Ozarks from south Louisiana in 2005. In 2018 she began experimenting with watercolor painting, using her local pigments. She calls them Paleo Paints, and her artwork features exclusively the lightfast pigments foraged from Madison county, Arkansas. Her inspiration is nature – the beauty, and the inherent cycle of life and death, destruction and regeneration.
Her online portfolio is at www.MadisonWoods.art.
Click here to join her mailing list.