There are many different sources for pigments, but the main source for my Paleo Paints is rocks. While rocks may be plentiful and easy to find wherever you are, not all of them are good for, or easy to work with, for making pigments. Sometimes there are good pigments to be found in very hard rocks, but the ones I like using the most are soft enough to be able to grind down into fairly fine powders that can easily be washed and separated for nice, smooth paints.
But do I go around whilly-nilly testing just any rock, plucking them off the ground or out of the creek at random? No. Or, rather, not *usually*. Sometimes I do. But there is at least a little method to my madness. I’ve never tried to explain it to anyone before, though, so feel free to comment with questions if I didn’t answer yours.
Here’s my How-To for Identifying Pigment Rocks
Total Time Needed :
10 Minutes, once on location.
– your hands– your eyes– rocks– water
– rocks– water
Steps to Testing Rocks:
Find a source
Go to a place that has rocks. I go to our creek. Sedimentary rocks are most often the kind that makes good pigment rocks for me here at Wild Ozark. Sandstone rocks are a good start. Shale works, too. Look around at the rocks.
Look for color
When the rocks are wet, like if they’re actually in the water, the color is easier to see. But you can still find color in dry rocks too. The ones in my hand have a nice terra-cotta color to them even though they’re not wet. We will wet them in the next step, though. Head over to the water.
Test your rock
Wet the rock you want to test and then rub it on a larger rock. Does it leave a nice streak of color? The more easily it leaves color, the richer your resulting pigment will be. If it only scratches the larger rock and doesn’t leave color, then throw it out. If it scratches white, unless you’re testing limestone, throw it out. You want a test that produces lots of easy color. Have fun! Watch for my online course!
I’m building on an online course to help people learn about their local pigments and how they can use them to make watercolor paints. Would you be interested in such a thing? It would consist of 15-minute sessions focused on a single part of the paint-making process, starting with pigment collection and ending with actually using the dried paints. The tuition can be paid in one total for all units, (undetermined how many units at this point), or pick and choose individual units. Students can join live Zoom meetings weekly or email questions for additional help anytime. Email me if interested
In the summer of 2018 I began making watercolor paints from the rocks, clay, and other resources of our land here in the Ozarks. My artwork is made exclusively with these paints. I call them Wild Ozark Paleo Paints, because they’re made in a way very close to the same way paints were made when man first put a hand-print on the wall of a cave. My specialty is painting nature, specifically the nature that surrounds me here in the remote hills of northwest Arkansas.
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