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A humorous account of a day in the life of a pigment hunting artist.

Yesterday was a day for running errands. You can come along with me to see what it’s like on a typical errand day in the life of a pigment hunting nature artist.

Heading Out

Once the sun made over the ridge and gave enough light for feeding critters, that’s what I did. First the dog, then the cats (which don’t really have names), and then the horses. When the horses are in the pen by the house, the order is reversed.

Once that was done, I grabbed my purse and the shopping list and headed out.

Ignoring the Rocks

I made an effort to not notice the rocks at the creek crossing on the driveway where I often forage for rocks. Kept my eyes on the bridge at the next, and didn’t even stop to inspect the rock pile put there by the graders. That was hard to do, so I was pretty proud of myself. I usually drive pretty slow, just because it’s hard on the vehicles to go fast. And I take advantage of that slow pace to really notice the plants growing along the way, and if I go early enough I can even see wildlife like otters from time to time.

Today I didn’t plan to stop for rocks because I had enough of them already at home. I didn’t need any more.

Nature Artist Stopping for Rocks

But at the third crossing there was this interesting rock. It beckoned me loudly from over the way.

Well gee, I had to stop.

An example of the sort of rock that calls like a siren to a pigment hunting nature artist.

And so it was that I clambered over the big boulders holding down the bridge and picked my footing across various other wet rocks on the way. But I got complacent and stepped where I shouldn’t have and ended up pretty much in a heap on the ground. Technically not on the ‘ground’, but on the rocks. At least not into the water.

I picked myself up and looked around real quick. Whew no one was around to laugh. Some kind of graceful pigment hunting nature artist I am. Truthfully though, no one is ever around to laugh when I fall. And if they were, they’d probably not laugh anyway. It’s just hard to overcome the embarrassment and imagine that people are laughing. After all the times I’ve made it to the ground since moving up here to this rock-strewn paradise, I should be used to it by now, though.

Disappointing Siren Rocks

At any rate, I thanked my limbs for being limber enough to make those contortions without breaking (or tearing the only intact ACL I have left) and continued my look at the rock. It turned out to be just a siren rock, trying to lead me into my doom. Just an iron-stained limestone rock that I can’t easily use for my Paleo Paints.

So, I went a different route back to the truck. Empty handed I might add. In spite of all those thousands of other rocks that would’ve liked to have hitched a ride. I was proud of myself for that. I don’t need to bring anymore rocks home. Seriously, I have enough already.

Distracting the Nature Artist

Until I saw this beaver stick. All the little chew marks on it captured my fancy, so I did pick that up and carried it the rest of the way. Now I need to figure out what exactly it can do to earn a keeper spot in my studio/office. (Note: I composed this post in December 2019. You should know that the stick has still not done a thing to earn its place, though I do still have it. I still like it too much to throw out.)

A stick that a beaver skinned and left behind on the gravel bar at the creek.
A beaver stick! All the dark spots are chew marks.

As a nature lover in general, I am always distracted by things I see out in the wilds. Sometimes it’s difficult to stay focused on whatever else is at hand. But my little spill on the rocks helped with that this time.

Onward

On the way through Kingston, I stopped and talked to a friend and the young lady at the post office. Before I started painting, I used color pencils in my nature artist endeavors. I wanted to show her a trick with the colored pencil blender. I had to get her to read the pencil I had, though, because I didn’t bring my reading glasses in.

Anyway, I got back on task and went to town to run the errands.

The Errands, and the Missing Reading Glasses

Picked up a few bales of hay and some feed for the horses first. Then shopped for groceries. I still didn’t have my reading glasses with me, so reading the ingredient lists were out of the question and I stuck to those items I already knew.

It was at this point in the day when I started to wonder just where might my glasses have gone. They weren’t in my purse. Usually I keep them hanging on my shirt because the strap I bought for them doesn’t work. I really need these glasses or I can’t read very long without getting headaches. And I can read small type at all. And I can’t paint very well if I want to see details, either. So I hoped they were in the truck.

The Curious Shopping List of a Nature Artist

And this brings me to the curious items in my basket. I check out my art supplies separately from my household items because I write them off on taxes. This day’s item list included three glass cutting boards, a can of acetone, and a can of poisoned ethanol. The ethanol is poisoned so you don’t get the notion to drink it. And that’s just to make sure the revenuers get the taxes for the drinking kind.

They sell it like this for people who are using it in their shops… I’m not sure what for, but *I* wanted it to see if it would work for fat-soluble pigment extraction from sassafras leaves. I told the register clerk as much when she asked. I don’t think she believed me. You never know when a pigment might need to be extracted from some unsuspecting plant part.

In Search of my Glasses

When I got out to the truck, I searched. They weren’t there. So maybe I dropped them at the feed store. I went back out there to the hay loading dock and had a look around. Nope. Then I remembered the pencil at the post office.

And then I had a really good idea where those glasses might have gotten off the day’s itinerary. A pigment hunting nature artist probably lost them at the creek.

On the way back in our long dirt road, I stopped again and backtracked my steps at the creek. I had to take the original route, you know, the one that landed me on the ground. But this time I made sure to step right on that slippery rock.

And sure enough, there were my glasses.

Losing the eye glasses is all part of a typical day in the life of a pigment hunting artist.
Right there where I left them.

So there you have it. That’s what a typical errand day in the life of this nature artist is like. Pigment hunting happens whether I intend to do it or not. Sometimes the siren rocks turn out to be worth all the effort. And sometimes they don’t. And while I am often on the rocks, I’m not normally all the way down on them, haha.

Madison Woods is an artist and paintmaker from Kingston, Arkansas.
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Author/Artist Info
________________________________
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.

Click here to join my mailing list.

Madison Woods
@wildozark (Instagram and FB)
[email protected]
Prints of my bald eagle painting.

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janet
6 June 2020 5:21 pm

This made me smile and chuckle for a variety of reasons, Madison. First, your efforts not to look for rocks is similar to me walking and not looking for photo ops. If I want to truly walk for exercise (fast walking continuously), I have to walk along the canal where… Read more »

Nancy Hartney
6 June 2020 5:18 pm

Amazing what can be found on a simple walk. I’m not collecting pigments but I sure enjoy collecting thoughts and sights on my morning walk. This morning it was a young doe which later I spotted a second time in my yard. Sun and shadows were lovely also.

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