Yay! Wild Ozark is back online!

After 3 days of being in website purgatory, the site is finally back to the light of day.

Just thought I’d make a little post to shout out about that. You guys have no idea how much grief I’ve gone through trying to get it here, lol, unless you’re also of the geeky persuasion.

I’ve crashed websites often over the years as I’ve learned how to run them, but this time I did it in a particularly crafty way and it took me a while to figure out how to get it back. It turned out, as it so often does, the fix was simple. Had I known the simple route existed, I would have taken it first, but even tech support didn’t offer that option. Tech support didn’t help much at all. So just a word of warning, if you intend to use VPS and self-host, prepare to learn to do things on your own if you go with Dreamhost. I used ICDSoft for many years for regular hosting, and still do for some client sites, but they didn’t have a VPS option. Their tech support is awesome, any time of day or night there’s someone to help online to answer emails. I never even got a response to my tickets submitted at Dreamhost, and chat wasn’t available this morning when I got up with a new idea to try out.

At any rate, I’m glad to be back. I’ll be at War Eagle in the Sharps Show part with the Burnt Kettle booth next weekend. Come out and say hello if you’re in the northwest Arkansas area and go to the fair.

Making Paint from Pink Sandstone of the Ozarks

I’ve been busy as a bee lately making more and more paint. Even though this week my intention was to focus solely on getting ready for upcoming shows and festivals, the lure of a large chunk of pink sandstone seduced me. I couldn’t help it, and I gave in to make more paint.

Collection No. 2

Soul of the Ozarks
Collection No. 2

Collection No. 2 has some of my preliminary experiments with pink sandstone, though. There are three colors in this set. A full pan of Frenchie, made with French green clay, Brown Sands, and Pink Sands.

The color swatches for Soul of the Ozarks, Collection No. 2.
The color swatches for Soul of the Ozarks, Collection No. 2.

 

Frenchie

Although French green clay is from France, I included it in this palette for a couple of reasons. So far I haven’t found a good light-fast local source to make any shade of green.

But I don’t feel like it’s much of a stretch to include this color in my Soul of the Ozarks collections. France once owned the territory that includes the Ozarks, so it’s part of our rich history.

This isn’t one of my favorite pigments, but I use it a lot. The reason I am not so enamored is because the pigment is weak. It takes a lot of building to get a good green out of it, but it’s easy enough to get a sheer and light green tint.

Brown Sands

This color is a filtered one and the pigment is sheer tan brown. It is less textured than whole-stone paints.

Pink Sands

More Pink Sandstone Color Experimentation

I found a large chunk of pink sandstone last week and earlier this week while I had the help of my friend Allyssa, we started work on a good-sized batch of pigment.

The chunk of pink sandstone after I broke it into smaller chunks.
The chunk of pink sandstone after I broke it into smaller chunks.

Since I had such a nice amount to work with, I decided to separate this stone into the various weights that make up the shades of pigment in it. What I hoped was to get more of the pink somewhere in there. But none of them are truly pink.

What I ended up with were heavy weights, middle weights, and light weights. Then I also separated out super lights from the light end. This is a long process involving water washes and precipitation of the particles.

Separating the heavy, middle, and light color shades from pink sandstone.
Separating the heavy, middle, and light color shades from pink sandstone.

Shades of Pink

Here’s what I have so far. There weren’t much ‘middles’ so I made a gouache of that. A gouache is somewhat more opaque than watercolor because it contains calcium carbonate (limestone). If I add this to a paint, it makes it go farther. I’ll also make a gouache of what’s left of the ‘lights’, to see if it’s different than the middle pink gouache.

Shades of pink sandstone. Still waiting on the rest of my lights to settle so I can make a 'lights gouache'.
Shades of pink sandstone. Still waiting on the rest of my lights to settle so I can make a ‘lights gouache’.

Want to Buy?

If you want any of my sets of paints, for now either find me at one of the shows I go to, or email me for an invoice. The experiment isn’t finished yet and those paints aren’t available. But Collection No. 2 is (I have 4 left). They’re $30, and are packaged to make great gifts. 

Once I’m done with this year’s shows, I’ll set up the items in my online shop here and maybe also at Etsy. That should be somewhere around the end of November. By that time, I should also have another collection of 6 colors.

Brown paint from the hard rock.

Brown Earth Pigment for my Handmade Watercolor Palette

My son found a rock alongside the driveway, near the creek. He kept it to give me since he knows I’ve been smashing a lot of rocks lately. This one seemed like it would be a great rock to make some of my earth pigments and handmade watercolors. It was mostly black, with some brown.

I thought so too. It appeared to be black sandstone – and I need another source of black.

With some sense of excitement, I took out my hammer and pounding board (otherwise known as a chopping block to those who actually cut up things to cook).

That rock surprised me. It surprised me in a couple of ways. First, it wouldn’t break. I mean I pounded that rock so hard it broke the board beneath it.

So I took it outside. Finally I did manage to break off a small sliver. Considering how much effort it took to break even the tiniest piece of it off, doubts about making paint from it had begun to cloud my happy day.

Before I set to reducing the sliver to dust, I looked at it under the magnifying loop. Lots of little pockets of shiny, glassy, black were there. It looked like obsidian or glass. So I took some pictures of the rock and tested it to see if a magnet would attract to it. Nope.

One of the state geologists said it may be 'carbonated sandstone', which is typically very hard. Makes a nice brown paint, though.
One of the state geologists said it may be ‘carbonated sandstone’, which is typically very hard.

Just a really hard rock with interesting black glassy bits. Not to be deterred so easily, I put the sliver into my handy stainless steel mortar and used the hammer on the pestle to crack it some more.

It didn’t surprise me that it was hard to grind to a powder. In fact, I was only able to reduce a small portion of it to actual powder. The rest was far too grainy to use for paint.

But I took the powder I did get and made the little pile on my mulling board and put the media in it.

And that’s where the second surprise happened. That powder, which still felt very gritty to my fingers, mulled down to the smoothest paint ever.

And not only that, it made the brownest brown I’ve found yet. This part really excited me.

But not enough to make me try to grind any more of it. My wrists were sore from the first attempt.

I kept the rock and will see if I can make more brown later from it. This is one color I doubt I’ll ever sell, just because for one, I’m not sure where to get another rock like that. And two, because it’s just far too hard to grind.

However, the brown compliments my own personal set of paints quite nicely and I’ve used it in the pelican I’m painting now. It was the best color for the job and I’m glad I had it on hand. It probably gets the color from manganese.

Thanks, Garrison! Pick up any other rocks you might think I’ll like in in the future.

Brown paint from the hard rock.
I think I’ll call this one “Hard Rock Brown”.
Drawing the Eye of a Pelican

The Painting of a Pelican

This painting of a Louisiana Brown Pelican was based mostly on a photo by Shelby Townsend , but I liked the feet on another from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, so modified them to drape over the edge of the post.

Here’s Shelby’s story about the day he took the photo.

Brown Pelican, by Shelby Townsend.
Photo by Shelby Townsend.

I remember taking that shot. We were riding a ferry across some small body of water somewhere in south Louisiana and he or she posed perfectly on that pole in some very good lighting so I could capture that shot… ~ Shelby Townsend

 

The Pelican’s Color Palette

These are the colors I’m using on the painting. All of them except the lapis lazuli for his eye and the French green clay I mixed with the gray are colors I made from rocks, clay, and sassafras leaves from here at Wild Ozark. The sassafras is the only plant-based paint that has good light fastness. All of the others I’ve tried have faded to nearly nothing in my sunlight tests within a few days. The sassafras actually intensified in color, and it’s my only source of really clean yellow. So far. I might find others sooner or later. But I’m happy with this one.

Getting Started

Click to enlarge.

The first thing I always have to do when I start a new painting is the eye. I’ve had the hardest time with the eye on this guy. Who knew it would be so hard to get a pelican’s eye just right?

Pelican Eyes

Turns out that a pelican has a lot of lines in his face. And his feathers go to a certain point on his face but then they stop and it’s just skin. So many little details. On my first attempt, I did a pretty decent job. I liked his blue eye.

Pelican's Eye #1. The eye as it turned out the first attempt. Not bad, but too large for a pelican.

Then I had to go and try to make it better. And what happened? Of course. I messed it up.

Messed up his eye with too much black.
Too much black.

So I erased his eye. And all of the black lines I’d added around his face. It was just too much black. I seem to have a weakness for doing that. The same thing happened with both kestrels. I can’t keep my brush out of the black.

Erased and will rework the pelican eye. Good thing the black lifts off relatively easy!
Good thing the black lifts off relatively easily!

Anyway, I got his eye erased and re-painted, and the second go around actually looks more realistic than the first, if you ask me.

Totally reworked the pelican's eye and face. Much better now.
Pelicans always have a look of ‘attitude’ about them, don’t they?

I’m using mostly Ozark colors on this Louisiana brown pelican. But I needed some blue for his eye and that’s not something I can get from our local stones. So I used a little bit of my precious lapis paint.

Moving On

Once I finished getting the pelican eye done to a point where I liked it, I began working on the bill, then his head, and finally to the color blocks for the rest of his body. Turns out that a pelican bill is pretty tricky too. There’s a lot of nuance in shape and lines, and it was very difficult to paint it in the way to make it look like what I saw in the photographs. And brown pelicans seem to come in all shades of colors with yellow, browns, black and russets. Perfect for the paints I make.

Color blocks in place on his back and belly, bill is pretty much done. Still need to add the feather details.
Color blocks in place on his back and belly, bill is pretty much done. Still need to add the feather details.

The Finished Painting

For this pelican, I did have to resort to a couple of outside colors, although they were still my own handmade watercolors. I used lapis for the blue in his eye and French green clay to give the gray the right tint.
For this pelican, I did have to resort to a couple of outside colors, although they were still my own handmade watercolors. I used lapis for the blue in his eye and French green clay to give the gray the right tint.

About the Painting

The paper  is heavyweight, sized 8″ x 10″. (Strathmore 400 series watercolor paper)

This pelican is a birthday gift for my sister. I’ve never really looked closely at a pelican before. They’re very odd looking creatures!

If you want to follow along and see the progress pics of other paintings as I do them, catch up with me over at Instagram. I’m @wildozark there too.

Have a great weekend!

A Call for Rocks and a New Page

Saturday I went down to Felkins creek which is near the end of our driveway. It’s not that I needed more rocks. I just wanted to see what the recent rains might have turned up. So I should probably have not gone looking.

Limestone and fossils.
Limestone and fossils.
Look at all of the fossils in this one little piece! There's that many more in the larger chunk.
Look at all of the fossils in this one little piece! There’s that many more in the larger chunk of fossil rock.

 

I only needed one rock. Or one color of rock. And I did get it. But all these other rocks wanted to jump in my bag, too.

It's the red sandstone without a black shell that I wanted. Not sure how all these other rocks got in the bag...
It’s the red sandstone without a black shell that I wanted. Not sure how all these other rocks got in the bag…

 

Have any rocks to share?

I’d like to make a collection of paints from other regions. A single colorful rock will work if it’s about hand-sized. I’ll send you a little pan of paint for a single rock (or handful of clay!). If you’d like to send me a medium-sized priority box of rocks (or clay) from your area, I’ll send you a whole palette of paints from those rocks. Choose a few rocks (or clays) of about 5 different colors if you can. Email me for my address.

How’s that fall in line with the ‘I don’t need any more rocks’ line of thinking??

New Page and Menu Item

I decided to put my paintings on a single page as I finish them. You’ll see that page now in the menu above. Next up will be a brown pelican, the State Bird of Louisiana. It won’t be for sale as it is a custom order but I’ll still post the progression of it as I’m doing it. Not sure I can do a pelican, so it’s an experiment!

A Book to Finish

I haven’t forgotten about the book I’m supposed to be wrapping up this summer. Summer is almost over… I know. If you’ve been waiting, please know it’s on my mind and I’m trying to work on it between making paints and painting.

Wrapper for the Soul of the Ozarks watercolor paint tin.

Soul of the Ozarks

I’m sure you’ve noticed I’ve been making paint lately, ha. But I thought I’d try out the slideshow-making program that came with my computer. Here’s a short collection to celebrate my first release of colors called Soul of the Ozarks. It’ll hit the shelves at the Kingston Square Arts shop on Sunday, Sept. 16.

Locally Made, Local Business, Local Ingredients

This product is Made in Arkansas from almost entirely local ingredients. I do have to import the media base and essential oil of cloves. But all of the color, labor, and the honey used to preserve and condition the paint, comes from right here close to home. If my tiny little operation grows very much, I’ll be able to hire someone from right here at home to help me with the gathering, sorting, and grinding of rocks and mulling of paints.

The Soul of the Ozarks

If rocks are the soul, then paint captures the essence and embodies the soul of a place.

Since all of these colors were gathered from right here at home, this entire collection is called Soul of the Ozarks. There will be other palettes added as I find other shades and sources. Other collections will be created from other places, and those will be given the title to match their place. This way you will always know the source of your colors.

Sustainable

Never toxic ingredients, and I always harvest the colors with respect and gratitude. The rocks and clay I gather are from sources Nature made available without resorting to digging or mining. I basically gather them off the ground while I’m taking my daily walk.

I’m experimenting with a source of water-soluble resin close to home so I won’t have to import the base media.

Introducing …

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nirvana

I am Going to Call it ‘Nirvana’

When I made my very first pan of watercolor paint, it was a russet from one of the sandstones on the ground outside. The color was nice, but at the bottom of that pan there was a very thin layer of a much deeper shade. I coveted the tiny bit of that and used it sparingly. But today I found the Nirvana rock.

Deep, dark russet. The Holy Grail of my pigment hunt.

Chasing the Grail

Once I started running low on the original pan of russet paint that I had, I started looking for the rock I’d used to create it. Many rocks have a russet colored inside, and there’s red clay everywhere. But none of them yielded the shade of rusty brown I wanted.

The Nirvana Rock

Today I found the one. It has a dark outer covering and a deep color inside. The texture is less gritty than the other sandstones and grinds to a much finer powder in the pestle.

The mound of Nirvana pigment before it's mulled.
It soaked up the media much faster than the others. Some don’t want to soak it up much at all.

 

Nirvana on the Mulling Board

Nirvana on the Mulling Board.
While the paint still has a slight grain to it, this will not be a problem for my style of painting.

 

My heart had already picked up the pace when the mound of pigment began soaking up the media. The mulling of this incredibly rich color that came from a rock outside on our driveway put me in a blissful state of mind.

I dare say it might have even counted as a spiritual moment. I’m the sort of person who could never name my favorite color. If someone asked, I’d say ‘earth tones’. That’s because I had not yet met this one.

THIS is my favorite color. 

And I’m calling it Nirvana.

The first 'named' color of my first palette is called "Nirvana".
I wrote the ‘Russet Sandstone’ on the tag before I’d processed the paint. It’s Nirvana.

 

Want some?

Until I find the mother load of these rocks, this is always going to be one I offer in very limited quantities and the price will reflect that. All of the paints I’m making will go on sale on September 16. They’ll be at the Kingston Square Arts shop in Kingston, AR and eventually I’ll have some on the shelf in the online shop here at the website.

Check back with me then, or email me to reserve a 1/2 pan now.  They’re $10/ea. and a 1/2 pan is not a lot of paint, I realize. There aren’t a lot of Nirvana rocks here, either. If you want it for half that price, bring me the right rock 😉

There will only be about 10 of them made by then. In the meantime, I’ll be looking for more Nirvana rocks…

Update! I found more rocks! All I have left of them are a few 1/2 pans, though. I’ll include this color in another upcoming collection this winter. Follow me on Instagram to keep up to date, or subscribe to my mailing list for announcements. Instagram is more current, mailing list is sporadic though I’d like to do one monthly. To keep up with products as they go up for sale, you can watch my Etsy shop. But some things never make it to the shop because they are sold out from requests by my Instagram followers. 

The mailing list form is at the bottom of this post.

Nirvana in the pan.

 

 

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header image for Making Handmade Paints

How to Make Handmade Watercolor Paint from Rocks, Clay or Soil

Today I’m making handmade watercolor paint from some of our native clay. The technique I used is the same as I would have used for the other colors that come from rocks. This is a very basic way to make paint. It can get a lot more complicated, but definitely not necessary.

If you fall in love with using your local colors, look into how to levigate (wash) pigments, create lake pigments from plant parts (precipitating chemical reactions), and separate the lights and heavies. This is all a lifetime learning process. If you have any advice or technique tips to share, please do so.

Workshops and Foraging

If you are the person who likes to learn hands-on with a live guide, I do hold workshops here in Kingston, Arkansas. We start with the foraging for rocks.

Before You Start

You’ll need a few things to make handmade watercolor paint. Some, like the muller and pans, are optional. Some you may be able to find substitutes for, like the pantyhose and palette knives. But the gum Arabic is essential unless you’ve figured out another way. And in that case you’re not likely to need this primer, ha. You can buy the media already prepared, though.

SAFETY

Wear eye protection when smashing rocks. Wear respiratory protection when working with powdered pigment or smashing/grinding rocks. If you have sensitive hearing, you may want to use ear plugs during mulling or hammering.

Media

Muller

  • Maybe you’ll want a muller (glass tool used on a plate to mix pigment with media), but when I first started making the paints, I didn’t have one. I used the alternative technique offered below that I use when the pigment won’t crush enough to get a smooth paste when mulling. I use a tempered glass chopping board for the plate.
  • If you don’t have a muller or think you will need to strain your paint, grab an old pair of panty hose so you can cut off segments of it to use for filtering.

Pans

  • Something to put your finished handmade paint in. Artists of antiquity used whatever little dish might have been handy. Seashells were commonly used. I buy pans and half-pans from Amazon. I’ve also made my own from polymer clay in a pinch. Tiny sample sized jars are nice, too.
  • Something to store the paint pans in. I use small mint tins with hinged lids. I also get those from Amazon. You can use anything you want to stay organized.
  • If you don’t want your pans sliding around inside your tins, if you use the tins, get some tiny little magnets to put inside the pans before you add the paint. I’ve tried adding magnet strips to the bottom but they inevitably come off.

Utensils

  • Disposable plastic pipetters for filling pans or adding media
  • Palette knives. I use plastic so the magnets don’t hop out of the pans onto them.

Let’s go make some handmade watercolor paint.

“Rocks, clay, and soil hold the soul of the Earth.” ~ Madison Woods

The Steps

Gather the material

The clay I’m using came to the surface when we had a landslide on our property in 2015. My husband brought me a bucket full using front-end loader on the tractor, so I have plenty on hand!

I’ve used it to make some fired pieces and the color turns a deep terracotta. Curious as to what color paint it would yield, I got to work.

Most rocks, slate, shale, and clay can be used to make paint and some of the colors are very nice. We have a lot of different sandstone colors here, so that’s where the bulk of my colors come from. Some rocks are too hard to crush without mechanical help, so I stick to the things I can break down easily enough to avoid wrist pain.

Clean

Native clay right from the source. It'll make a great handmade watercolor paint!

Sometimes rocks are dirty. They lie around on the ground and in the creek or in the mud. So that’s to be expected. So I clean them before I use them by scrubbing them down with a brush.

Clay can be cleaned too, and I have some that has been washed and filtered. It’s put aside for sculpting. But I wanted to use the clay just as it was in the ground to see what color it gave, including all the little ‘dirty’ bits.

Later I’ll try it with the cleaned clay and see what color that one yields. I suspect it will be more gray. Maybe it’ll even give me the blue-gray I need for the goshawks I want to paint.

Dry

Let the rocks dry thoroughly before you start breaking them.

Crack

Larger rocks can be broken outside using the surface of an even larger rock. This will spare your counter-tops and chopping blocks. I know this from experience. You can even use a hand-held rock to break the smaller rocks into smaller pieces. Very low-tech!

Break

Break the rocks into small chunks so that you can hold several in the palm of your hand. Bring those inside to your mortar and pestle. Making handmade watercolor paint involves a lot of using your hands!

Get a heavy-duty stainless mortar and pestle. This one has dimples on the pestle and the inner surface is brushed. Works great!

Grind to smaller pieces

  • Sieve
  • Grind
  • Sieve
  • Grind
When you're making handmade watercolor paint from rocks, clay, or anything, you'll need to sieve out the lumps before making the actual paint. If you like the texture and character of the little bits, you can leave them in there too. It's your choice.
When you’re making handmade watercolor paints from rocks, clay, or anything, you’ll need to sieve out the lumps before making the actual paint. If you like the texture and character of the little bits, you can leave them in there too. It’s your choice.

Make a finer powder

Put a little of the powder in finer mortar and process until you’ve reached a fine dust.

You can skip this step if you like your paint grainy, or if the dust is powdered enough to not be grainy.

A powder suitable for the mulling step, because the clay will soften and not stay too grainy. If it were sandstone, I would put this in the next mortar and pestle to grind it more. Making handmade watercolor paint.
A powder suitable for the mulling step, because the clay will soften and not stay too grainy. If it were sandstone, I would put this in the next mortar and pestle to grind it more.

If your sieved pigment is still too grainy, try reducing it more in a smooth pestle. I didn’t need to do this for the creek shale or the clay, but I do for almost all of the other color rocks.

A little pile of pigment on the mulling board. I'm making handmade watercolor paint.
A little pile of pigment on the mulling board.

Mulling Handmade Watercolor Paint

Put a little pile of powder on the mulling board.

  • Make a little well in the center
  • Fill the well with media (watercolor media is made from gum arabic)
  • I let the liquid soak into surrounding pile a bit before mixing with my palette knife
  • Use a muller to get the powder suspended and stable in the media
  • put in pans

How to Mull

I haven’t found a very good explanation of this online, but there were some videos that show it being done. Maybe there are some on YouTube, but I haven’t checked there yet. This is what I’ve discovered. When you put the pile of pigment on the board, wet it good with your media but not so much that it will run off of the board. Mix it a bit with your palette knife. Take the glass muller and use it to spread the pigment all around in a circle. It’ll sound gritty.

mulling handmade watercolor paint

Once you’ve started spreading your pigment paste, if it’s too sticky, add a few drops (of media) with your plastic pipette. When you get it spread out, then scrape it off the muller and scrape the glass so that you’ve reconstructed your little pile in the middle. Do it again. Repeat until the paste begins to feel like butter. That is when it is done.

But you can get acceptable colors without mulling so much, or at all. And here’s a tip. Your glass plate will not do a very good job until it gets good and abraded by all your initial attempts. You could mull with one of your abundant pigments for practice and it will get a start on scratching up the glass for you.

An alternative to mulling

Some paints never crush finely enough. And if you don’t have the muller you’ll need another method to get the color mixed into the media.

Put your pigment powder into a small jar. Add enough media to wet the powder plus have a little extra. This will ‘extract’ the color into the media. You’ll need to agitate it often for a day or so.

Filter It

Filter the liquid through pantyhose. It doesn’t just pour through, though, so it has to be twisted and pressure applied.

Store It

If you do it this way, store the liquid in a jar in the refrigerator. Use a plastic pipette, or dropper, to fill the pans. As the pan dries and the level shrinks, keep topping it off with your stored fluid. This actually makes a much nicer pan in the end as opposed to scraping it off the mulling board directly into the pans. It does for me, anyway. Perhaps there is a trick to it that I haven’t learned yet.

The finished handmade watercolor paint. I toasted some of the pigment powder in the oven to see if it would change the color. It made it a little warmer and richer.
The finished handmade watercolor paint. I toasted some of the pigment powder in the oven to see if it would change the color. It made it a little warmer and richer.

I hope you try your own hand at making some handmade watercolor paint from the resources surrounding you. I collect rocks, clay and soil from everywhere I go now. Eventually there will be a palette to represent the ‘soul’ of all of my favorite places.

Here’s the first palette of colors I’ll have ready to sell in a few weeks. It’s named “Soul of the Ozarks” and contains five of my favorite shades from right here at Wild Ozark.

“Soul of the Ozarks” Collection no. 1

“Soul of the Ozarks” Collection no. 1, (sold out). Check my Etsy to see what’s available now. Click here to see paintings made with handmade watercolor paint from Wild Ozark.

Using Handmade Watercolor Paint

I have no experience with commercial watercolors, so I can’t give you a comparison on how they are compared to the handmade. I suspect there are consistency differences and that you’ll need to experiment to make the best use of them. But I can show you the work I’ve done with mine. Here’s Kestrel no. 3. Every single color came from paints I made using stones and clay (and wood char that I made) right here at Wild Ozark.

Kestrel No. 3, featuring all handmade watercolor paints made from local stone and clay sources. Panic stage navigated.

Kestrel No. 3, featuring all handmade watercolor paints made from local stone and clay sources.

Paleo Paint Workshops

If you’re interested in workshops on how to make watercolor paints, starting from the foraging of rocks, check out my workshops.

Making Media for Handmade Watercolors

Here’s the process I use for making media for my handmade watercolor paints. There are likely more precise ways to do this, but it’s the method I use that works for me. To see paintings I’ve done using my handmade watercolors, visit my online gallery at PaleoPaints.com. Any derivative artworks (prints, stationary, etc. can be found at my Etsy shop).

Ingredients for Making Media

  • Gum Arabic
  • Water
  • Honey
  • Essential Oil of Cloves

Some of the other recipes I found online that I’ve tried gave me sticky paints that took a very long time to dry.

Each time you use a different pigment, the media may need to be adjusted, but so far, this one has worked for all of the paints I’ve made.

Some points to remember

  • paint is chalky when dried, you needed more gum in the solution
  • too sticky and takes too long to dry, you need less honey
  • not enough gum or too much of the clove oil it can make your paint hard to wet
  • each batch of gum Arabic may have slightly different properties 
Chunks of gum Arabic that I use for making media for my handmade watercolor paints.
Chunks of gum Arabic that I use for making watercolor media.

You’d never guess from my method that my career background took place in a laboratory. With art, I work on an intuitive basis, not necessarily stricly scientific. As you can see, my measurements are very precise…

Not very scientific or precise, but my marks on the jar at least keep me consistent. Making media for handmade watercolor paints.
Not very scientific or precise, but my marks on the jar at least keep me consistent.

Usually, I make this in the evening. I fill the jar with gum chunks to the bottom mark. Add sterilized water to the second mark. Let it sit overnight to dissolve, and turn the jar every once in a while to help it all get wet.

The next evening, add more water if necessary to meet the second mark. The photo shows it right after I took it out to add the extra water. As the gum dissolved, the volume settled a little. Then add the honey.

After that, add a dash of essential oil of cloves. Supposedly this helps to keep mold and bacteria from growing but I don’t know if it works or not.

Then filter it all through the same sized sieve used below for sifting the powdered pigments. Store the media in a clean jar in the refrigerator and use as needed. If you have any gum left undissolved in the bottom of the ‘dirty’ jar, don’t throw it out. Just leave the lid off and let it dry out. Use the same jar just as it is, residue and all, for making the next batch.

So there you go! This is my way of making media for handmade watercolor paints. Let me know if you try it how it worked for you.

The next post I make will be about how to make the paint. Look for it tomorrow.

Kestrel No. 3, featuring all handmade watercolor paints made from local stone and clay sources. Panic stage navigated.

The “Panic Stage” in a Work of Nature Art

There’s a new work in progress sitting on my easel. By the time I’m done with this post, it’ll probably be a finished work. It’s another kestrel, and I’ve reached a reliable stage in the process. I call it the ‘Panic Stage’.

My Process

The photo above, by Terry Stanfill, is the one that served as the model for my painting. In the end, it didn’t look exactly like it, but I think it’s close enough and the differences are not necessarily bad ones.

When I first start a painting, I start out with a sense of excitement. I can’t wait to see the finished image. But usually there’s a whole lotta grief and misery to get through before I reach that point.

What is the Panic Stage?

I imagine there’s a point like this in the process of any kind of creative act. It’s when all seems lost, like you just cannot do the thing you set out to do and it feels pointless to continue.

There is most certainly a panic stage with natural childbirth – at least there was in my own three experiences and also with the the birth of my grandchildren. Any act of creation, whether it’s visual art, hand-crafted, or written is like a symbolic giving of birth. In the real act, the panic stage occurs just before it’s time to start the first real push. It’s when the mother in labor wants to quit the natural way and wishes she’d opted for the pain-killing epidural. Because it hurts. And it’s hard. And there seems to be no realistic way to achieve the birthing without dying in the process. That’s the panic stage.

Of course, it’s not so dramatic when it comes to creative birthings, but some of the emotions are pretty close, ha.

And when it comes to my kestrel paintings, it seems I have to push through a point where I want to throw it away in every one. Thankfully, I have a lot of encouragement from friends and family to talk me down from the ledge when I hit that point. I just hope this sort of thing eases some as I get more experience.

Progression Pics Help to Push through Panic Stage

I take photos of the various stages of my work because it helps me to look at it with a different perspective. What I hope is that one day I’ll see the problems soon enough during the creation of the work that I can fix them early on and avoid the panic stage all together.

Once the background is applied and the light sketch drawn in, the eye is the first thing I have to paint. If I can't get the eye right (position, size, expression), none of the rest of it will matter. I'll avoid the panic stage altogether if I can't get this part right, ha.
Once the background is applied and the light sketch drawn in, the eye is the first thing I have to paint. If I can’t get the eye right (position, size, expression), none of the rest of it will matter and I’ll avoid the panic stage at the end altogether, ha. It at least has to be set up to a point where I know I can make it work.

Sometimes something is wrong and I can’t figure out what it is. In the photo above, I know the eye and the nose are going to need some work, but it’s there well enough that I also know I can fix the problems. So this doesn’t bother me. They are at least done to a point where I am confident that going forward won’t be a waste of time.

Seeing the photo on Instagram or Facebook lets me see it as if I am looking at it for the first time.

What Could Go Wrong?

Lots of things aren’t always evident at the start. Sometimes it’s not until I start working on a certain part that I realize the off-thing in another part has thrown off this part too. Often I can tell right away when I see it in a photo I’ve posted what the problem is. It’s when I can’t see what the problem is that the panic stage really starts to set in.

An angle might be off. A line might be curved where it should be straight. Both of these issues occurred in this particular painting, and they often happen when I am drawing or painting anything. The key is to be able to see it and make the necessary changes. And that’s where the progress pictures come in really handy to me as the creator.

 

It is still looking good to me at this point. I haven't seen the problem yet. I'm definitely not at the panic stage. I'd say I'm still in the euphoric stage, lol. No panic stage yet.
It is still looking good to me at this point. I haven’t seen the problem yet.

Helping Others, Helping Myself

I like sharing them publicly so that if anyone else is out there trying to create something, they will see the agony another artist goes through during the process and not be so afraid when they encounter their own sense of dread halfway through it.

But I also like getting the feedback and encouragement my friends offer while I’m in the middle of a creation. It motivates me to continue. It’s also good for marketing. People love to see what went into something they might be interested in buying. I know I do.

The Awkward Stage

Right now, kestrel #3 is at that awkward stage. The spot where nothing looks right and I question whether or not I should just wad the page up and throw it in the garbage. It’s not the Panic Stage still, because I haven’t tried to fix anything and failed yet. I just know something’s wrong.

It's the tail. The tail is slightly off in the angle, making all of the other lines wrong on it when I try to add the feathers. Panic stage is starting to set in.
It’s the tail. The tail is slightly off in the angle, making all of the other lines wrong on it when I try to add the feathers.

Found the Problem

It’s the angle of the tail. So I erased the tail and started over on it. Three times! Finally, the tail looks like it should and I am happy and can move on. Panic stage eased somewhat.

He's ruffled in the wind, but there's something else wrong. I'm at the panic stage of this creation.
He’s ruffled in the wind, but there’s something else wrong.

But now I can see that there is a line issue with the wing tips. It needs to be straight, not curved. And I can fix this now that I recognize the problem. Until I saw the picture in another way, on the progress pic I posted, I didn’t see the problem but I had been fighting a disturbing sense that something was not right.

More Problems

Once the wings were fixed, I noticed the barring on the back was all wrong.The lines were traveling the wrong angles.

I’d also gotten too heavy handed with the black, and there was too much black. Everywhere. The average person might not have noticed the misguided bars or the fact that I used too much black, but if someone really loves kestrels, this is something they would have noticed. So I picked up all the color from the upper back. Then I had to pick up the color from the middle wing. And I had to remove some of the black around his eye.

Then I had to replace some of the black that made up his eye, lol. I was really entrenched in panic stage by this point, let me tell you.

When I finally got it all repainted, it was much better and worth all the effort.

Pushing Through

I’m past the panic stage now, but there are still issues to fix going forward. I know what I need to do, though, and that makes all the difference in the world.

When have you ever experienced this sort of dismay? When you hit a panic stage do you quit, or do you push through? How long does it take to overcome the feeling that you’ve just wasted your time and resources to get to that point? Thankfully, this phase is usually short-lived for me if I am able to keep working and I don’t quit.

Whew! Finished.

I’m quite pleased with it now that all the grief is over. I’m also glad I didn’t quit when the work of it got tough. Soon this little kestrel will be on her way to a new home on the west coast. Here’s the photo I used as a model.

Kestrel photo by Terry Stanfill. Used with permission.
Kestrel photo by Terry Stanfill. Used with permission.

Like seeing my process?

Here’s another of my other posts with progression photos. I’ll try to begin adding a progression post with every painting or work I do going forward.

Green Dragon (prismacolor pencil)

 

All for Little Pans of Color Worth their Weight in Gold

The past week was a really busy one. I spent most of the time busting rocks and grinding them to powder. Why? To make paints! You’ll know why I say they’re worth their weight in gold after you read the rest of this post.

I mostly did the nice, colorful rocks but I also did some of the gray shale and a few chunks of wood char for gray and black colors.

Recap of a Week

When I began this post I was going to give a day-by-day recap, but I can’t remember what I did on Monday. So I’ll start with Tuesday. On Tuesday my huge wall calendar came in the mail. I wanted this so I could plot out next year with festivals and shows to go to with my paints and paintings. I want to find some good shows so that when Rob comes home from his contract we won’t have to do so much trial and error finding the good ones.

After I hung the calendar, I went out and gathered some rocks and started the week off with a bang. Busted my chopping block that I’d used for cracking rocks. But I’d gotten a lot of rocks busted before this happened. Figured I’d better find a better way after that, though.

Broke my chopping board cracking rocks.

Wednesday

I started doing the initial cracks on a rock outside. What I think I really need is a nice, big, thick granite slab! But for now, this little square rock seems to work well enough.

The rock I use to test smaller rocks to see what colors are inside when I'm looking for good earth pigments.
The rock I use to test smaller rocks to see what colors are inside when I’m looking for good earth pigments.

By Thursday, I knew exactly why those little paints on Etsy were so expensive. They really were worth their weight in gold. But by this time, I was hooked and there was no turning back. I just had to gather all the colors I needed to make the painting I want to make next week.

So I gathered a little of the red, a little of the pink, yellow slate from the clay slide hill (this one was very hard to crush), and some of the gray slate from down in the creek – this one worked wonderfully! It made a black paint so smooth and creamy it felt like whipped cream. Usually I strain them all once the media has had time blend with the dust, but this one didn’t have any grit left in it at all when I finished mulling it.

Black shale paint worth its weight in gold.

Finally. My Own Little Pans Worth their Weight in Gold.

When I first started looking at making handmade watercolors I looked at the ones over at Etsy. They were expensive! Now I know why. It takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears to produce a full set of colors. But oh, my, I have never found any work as satisfying. Except finishing a painting that went as imagined. I have to say that feels even better.

The first completed Wild Ozark palette of colors!
The first completed Wild Ozark palette of colors. All are sourced right here at home except the French green clay I used to make the last one.

The journal of stones, some of the ground earth pigment from one of the red sandstones, and the finished palette.
The journal of stones, some of the ground pigment from one of the red sandstones, and the finished palette. The pigment appears to be a brighter red than it really was.

On Friday night I went to bed worn out, sore, and glad to have reached my goal of a palette worth its weight in gold.. I wanted to have my finished palette made so I could have the grand-girls over on Saturday night.

As I get time, I’ll make a blog post when I do each color so you can see all the steps involved. If you want to know when I have some more palettes done and put them up to sell, sign up for the Wild Ozark newsletter. Or follow me on FB or Instagram. I’ll also have dry pigments for those who want to make their own paints, minus a lot of the work.

Sharing What I’ve Learned

Sooner or later I’ll have a workshop on how to make paints. I gathered as much information as I could online but there isn’t a lot on how to actually ‘do’ it. I’m constantly learning something new and the #handmadewatercolor and #earthpigment posters at Instagram have been incredible sources of inspiration and information. One thing I do know is that the colors work great on the paintings I’ve made. You can look back in the blog to see the Study in Sandstone and the Kestrel on a Line I did with the first set of paints I made.

In the meantime here’s a quick outline.

Making Paint

  • collect the rocks
  • crack the rocks
  • crush the rocks until they pass through the seive
  • mix the powder (earth pigment) with the watercolor media (made from gum arabic and honey and clove essential oil). There’s a tool called a muller to use for this. It’s like a flat bottomed pestle that you use on a sheet of glass or slab of marble to mix the pigment with the media. But you don’t have to use the muller. I don’t mind if my paint has darker pigment that settles to the bottom of the pans because then I can choose to use the darker or the lighter shades when I’m painting.
  • put the paint in pans. If it’s too grainy still, I filter it through a section of pantyhose. it doesn’t just ‘pour’ through, it has to be twisted and put under pressure.
  • once in the pans, the rest of the paint is stored in a tightly closed jar. as the pans evaporate the paint volume shrinks and I add more paint from the jar to the pan until the pans are full when completely dry.
  • stand back and admire the fruits of a labor of love that produced colors worth their weight in gold 🙂

When I first started this obsession, I tried making some paints with plants, too. They looked great, and still do as long as they don’t see the sun. But those paints are called ‘fugitive’ for a reason – they run from daylight. The only one that hasn’t faded is the one made from sassafras leaf and now I can’t remember how I made that one. The second attempt did not yield the same bright yellow.

The Work is Never Done

And so today the grand-girls came over to spend the night. What does Karter want to do?

Karter is crushing it!
Karter picking up where I left off.

Bang up rocks.


Some of my other posts about making or painting with handmade paints:

Clearing the Clutter: Promises, Broken Rocks, and Things to Come

Making My Own Watercolor Paints from Ozark Pigments

A Study in Sandstone

An entire painting done with a watercolor paint made from our local sandstone.
No photo to go on this time, just imagination.

The whole painting is in my handmade watercolor paint made from one of our local shades of sandstone.

Every Sunday I’ll be at the Kingston Square Arts shop with the colors I’ve made so far. If it’s not too busy I’ll usually be working on a painting and you’re welcome to pick up a brush and try them out, too.

Workshops on cleaning and using native clay and making paints or earth pigments are in the near future. Sign up for my mailing list if you want to get notifications. Or follow me and Kingston Square Arts on FB, because I’ll post it there too.

Promises in a broken rock, and clearing the clutter from my studio and website.

Clearing the Clutter: Promises, Broken Rocks, and Things to Come

Such promise in a broken rock… I see paints everywhere now. Makes it hard to walk down the driveway. As if that wasn’t already hard enough before I learned about making earth pigments! The path in my office/studio AND the website has gotten hard to navigate too, so it’s time to do some work clearing the clutter.

Broken Rock Aside

There are changes a’coming to the Wild Ozark website and Etsy shop. Right now the Etsy shop is completely down while I refocus and renovate.

Any of you who have followed me in my blogs over the … decades? I don’t know how long I’ve been doing this. More than a decade, at least. But if you’ve been with me even a few years you’ve seen the changes that happen.

With each name change, the focus changed too. In the earliest days of ‘Ancient Earth Wisdom’, the focus was on herbalism. Then we bought the property in Arkansas and I changed it to ‘Ozark Musings’, and later again to ‘Madison Woods’ and the focus was more on my writing. Even since I started Wild Ozark in 2014, it has evolved. I think part of that is because I’ve been trying to find my niche in the world. Part of it is because my interests are just so varied that my focus is scattered all over the place.

New passions grab me and I run with them for a while, you know? But want to settle in to one of my arts long-term so I can truly master it.

The Nature Art is Here to Stay

I’ve never felt so in love with a creative expression as I am with making my own colors and art materials. So this endeavor is *probably* going to be with me for the rest of my life. That includes the native clay and the colors and the things I make from them.

My writing is going to stay. But it has its own website and so isn’t part of the clearing of clutter on the website, nor in the office/studio. Except once I get the office/studio finished, it’ll be a lot easier to sit down and write!

The Fairy Swing Mushrooms will stay.

Once Rob returns from this contract, his woodworking is going to launch to a new level, so the woodcrafts will stay.

Clearing the clutter, but keeping the Fairy Swing Mushrooms!

What’s Changing?

Not much. I’m just doing some housecleaning – in reality and figuratively. And I’m taking out some of the too many irons in the fire. I’m going to retire the Forest Folk and Fairy Gardens and all the little accessories I’d been making. I’m not going to return the the farmers markets. Doing the market was just too time consuming and I could never get the art I really wanted to do done because I was too busy doing the things that sold best.

I will try to get into some of the juried art shows with the Fairy Swing Mushrooms and my watercolors once I get enough of them done. Ideally I’d like to have a circuit of shows or festivals to attend quarterly. At least some of those that are festivals would also let us have a booth for the syrup, too.

And speaking of the syrup. Burnt Kettle is a separate thing altogether and nothing at the moment is going to change with that. For the purpose of my focus narrowing, though, it’s just a separate thing and not part of my mental housecleaning.

Clearing the Clutter

At this very moment I’m in the process of clearing the clutter from my workspace in the house. I started that before I left for my trip to Doha, but hadn’t made a very big dent in the huge job that it is.

Once I came home I renewed the effort. All of my office is now stacked in boxes all over the kitchen and I’m trying to decide where to put it all and how to make it all fit back into the office.

It won’t all fit.

I am simply going to have to let go of some things. For example, I have tons and tons of empty boxes and containers for shipping my arts to mail-order customers.

Some of those can go and I can keep on hand just what I need. I don’t need three contractor garbage bags full.

This website is like a virtual representation of my studio/office. It also needs to be cleaned and decluttered every once in a while. Because it is important to my business, it also needs to perform well in that aspect.

Narrowing My Focus

So, the things I am going to continue doing will be the writing, the earth pigments and paints, the paintings/drawings, and the Fairy Swing Mushrooms. I had been using polymer clay for the mushroom caps, but I want to use the native clay for that going forward.

Letting go of the web design (not taking new clients), the farmer’s market, the Forest Folk, Fairy Gardens. Of course, I’m not throwing the supplies away for these things, I’m just clearing the clutter and putting them in labeled boxes. I might need to make a Forest Folk for some reason; who knows?

For the changes coming to the website, I’m going to weed out some of the categories of posts that don’t reflect the above listed things.

What About the Ginseng?

So the ginseng is a complete outlier to the rest of the things I’m doing and want to continue doing. I’m not sure yet what to do about it. I haven’t written any posts specifically about it in a long time, but it’s the main driver of traffic to this website. That’s because over the years, I did write a tremendous amount about it.

I may leave all the content related to ginseng alone, but that defeats the purpose of trying to focus and isn’t really helping with clearing the clutter. Every year I do still post a page for diggers and dealers to discuss prices and find each other. I may move all of that content to a separate website. Since I don’t update it often anymore, once I get it set up and moved, it wouldn’t be too much work.

The problem of what to do about the ginseng is the biggest potential change coming to Wild Ozark. I need to decide if I still want to bother with the growing and selling of seedlings. I think I do. But it’s an entirely different venture than the art and it needs its own place on the web.

What I’ve noticed is that most of the readers who are here for the ginseng information are not here for the blog. They come from the search engines directly to the content related to the ginseng and they rarely go elsewhere to the other topics. Most of the ones who are here to read the blog posts are not here for the ginseng related topics.

So for the most part, it’s two different audiences.

The Blog Itself Won’t Change Much

I write about nature, post pictures of things that interested me, and write about the artistic things I’m doing. Going forward, the focus will probably lean more toward the artistic things I’m doing, and I’ll post pictures of things I find interesting, like nature. So not much change. Just clearing the clutter.

Anyway… thank you to all of you who follow me around in this virtual space no matter what I’m writing about. And thank you to the ones who only like to read when it’s a topic of interest to you. And thank you to those of you who think you’re not going to like this new Wild Ozark much and decide to just hop off now, lol. It’s all good!

 

 

The Color of a Plant Does Not Equal the Color of a Paint

I’ve been experimenting with local plants to get a nice, stable, green color for my handmade watercolor paints. Most of the things I’ve tried in my quest for green has resulted in gray or brown. Lamb’s Quarters, a common edible weed turned out to hold green promises. Blue is the other elusive color on my list, and with Thai Butterfly Pea Tea I might have a source for that if I can grow it here.

Nature offers me lots and lots of stones and clay right here at Wild Ozark. Those yield very nice shades of browns and I love them. Plants offer lots of shades of yellow. But I need blue and green to complete my custom Wild Ozark palette, and those are proving hard to find.

"Sandstone

Color From Plants

People have used plants to make dyes for fabrics since the beginning of our time on earth. So I wondered if I could use them to make paint, too. Plants offer an abundance of various shades of yellow. But green and blue colors are especially hard to make into paint (or dye) without using materials I have to purchase.

I’ve been on a nearly obsessive quest to find local sources for green and blue color, but even if I find them, the likelihood that the resulting paint will fade in time is high. Ideally I will find a plant or something that occurs naturally here to use as pigment for a color-fast blue and green paint.

What You See is Not Necessarily What You Get

You’d think with all the green plants growing around, green would be an easy color to make. Not so. Just because a thing is a certain color, that doesn’t mean the paint (or dye) made from that thing will also yield that color.

There aren’t many blue things to experiment with, but the things that are blue are such beautiful shades. I long for color palettes loaded with such saturated colors, especially if those colors were naturally produced from my local surroundings.

Chicory flowers are a pretty blue-purple, but the paint I made from them didn't even come close to capturing that color.
Chicory flowers are a pretty blue-purple color.

Take chicory flowers, for example. What a nice pretty color those flowers are! That would make a nice blue paint, right?

Ummm. No.

It makes a nice sort of umber color, though.

The color of paint that chicory flowers made.

The same goes for greens. Most of the things that have chlorophyll in them are green. And most of the time that green turns brown as soon as it is parted from the plant.

You can see some of the work I’ve done with the sandstone, yellow, black and gray I made earlier at this page. Eventually, I’ll organize the colors into palettes and make demo art cards to go with each set.

Promises of Green Color

So I’ve been experimenting. When I pass a plant, I’ll rub the leaf between my fingers and see what happens. How long does the smear stay green on my skin? Does it even make a color transfer to my skin? Does it make a completely different color stain, like the dark brown of green walnut hulls or perilla leaves?

Today I pulled an errant weed from one of the potted peppers on the porch. Turns out the weed was an amaranth, not the pigweed with thorns, or the goose foot lamb’s quarters, but some other amaranth I didn’t know. Before I tossed it over the side, the thought occurred to check the color. I rubbed a leaf, and wow, what a nice green smear. A few more of those plants would be enough to make a decent test batch so I went out to look for more.

Of course there wouldn’t be any. But I did find the lamb’s quarters and tried one of those leaves. The green color in that smear was even brighter than the first plant, so I gathered some of those and headed back to the house. Now, I know these plants are nutritious and tasty wild foods, so if making paint or dye isn’t your thing and you have these ‘weeds’ growing around you might give them a try as food.

Here’s the experimental green paint I made from the leaves.

Green handmade watercolor paint from lamb's quarters leaves.

Right now it’s drying on a blotter card and hanging on the line in the sun so I can see if it’s going to turn brown or fade from sight. After one day, it’s still bright green so there’s hope.

Blue Color from Spiderwort and Butterfly Pea Flowers

I smashed a spiderwort (day flower) yesterday and it left a very blue stain on my finger. Unfortunately, there were only three or four flowers blooming that I could find, so I didn’t get very far with that experiment.

But I have some blue butterfly pea (Thai) for making a medicinal tea, and those flowers stain the water a very bright blue. As it turns out, the butterfly pea flower has the same compound in it and research is taking place on it as a dye plant. So I used the tea to make a test batch of paint. I used alum with part of it to see if it makes the color more stable, but the alum turned it away from blue. Still a useful color, but not what I wanted.

The butterfly pea swatches after drying overnight.
The butterfly pea swatches after drying overnight.

The compounds in the butterfly pea and the amaranth are due to compounds in the plants called anthocyanin (blue) and betalains (green). What gives me hope is that those compounds are pigments and might be more stable. If the spiderwort flowers also contain the anthocyanin, then these two plants just might work for as local sources my green and blue handmade watercolor paints!

So far the results are very promising that I’ll actually have a green and a blue paint to add to my palette. The question is how light-fast will that color be over the years?

Testing the Stability

I’m doing a test to help me see how badly the colors I have so far will fade. I painted a swatch of each color all the way across the page and labeled it twice. Once on either end of the swipe. Then I cut the page down the middle. One half is hanging on the window outside so that it is exposed to sunlight. The other side is in the dark closet. In four weeks I’ll put the two halves back together and compare the colors. I’ll update this post to let you know the results.

All the colors I have so far, hanging in the light for four weeks to test stability.
All the colors I have so far, hanging in the light for four weeks to test stability.

Today I was supposed to be a cleaning and organizing day. This experiment totally derailed yesterday’s plans but now I’m going to try and get back on track.

Update on the Light Stability

082518 – Such sad news! All of the plant based colors failed – except the sassafras. That single one performed brilliantly, and even intensified a bit, so I’ve added it to my arsenal of earth pigments. I’ll just stick with the rock-based colors until I have more time to experiment.

 

The Dusty Sand of Doha

My plan all along was to gather a bit of the sand of Doha before I left for the sand-stony ground of home. As it turned out, it was harder to find than I expected. Everywhere I went was nothing but pavement and cobblestone pavers. Any ground I saw usually was either landscaped medians between highways, or busted up rubble from construction. Eventually I realized that busted up rubble, wasn’t rubble at all, but the way the ground just looks here. So the sand of Doha is all around, even in the air. There just wasn’t any handy enough to scoop up in the places where I went.

Other places have bigger rocks and chunks and it really does just look like busted up concrete.
Other places have bigger rocks and chunks and it really does just look like busted up concrete.

Hourglass Sands Trickling Away

We didn’t do any touring of the countryside away from the city where I might have been able to just get out and scrape up a little into a bag. Today is Wednesday of the last week I’ll be here. My clothes are packed up now except for an outfit to wear out to eat and an outfit to travel home in. I began to worry I might not get to bring any dirt, sand, or rocks home with me after all.

I realize this may not be a ‘typical’ worry of people.

However, I want the sand of Doha so I can try making a watercolor paint from it. I’ll name it “Sand of Doha”. Or maybe I’ll come up with something more imaginative. I’m really jealous of all the names of the paint collections I’ve been looking at online, and every time I try to think of a name for my own first set of colors… it’s just so plain in comparison.

No Easy Way to Find the Sand of Doha

Today it's 108*F and feels like 118*F. I'm standing in the shade of a date palm here.
Today it’s 108*F and feels like 118*F. I’m standing in the shade of a date palm here, right across the street from the apartment. I probably could have swept the street and gathered up a lot of the sand of Doha that way.

It’s been so hot that I haven’t gone any further from the apartment than from the door to the car. Plus, I didn’t know how well the residents of this place would take to a stranger, an obviously western woman at that, walking down the street alone. So I just didn’t want to take any chances and stayed close to the apartment. When I went to town, I took an Uber ride (which by the way, operates fantastically here!). That didn’t offer any chances.

When I went outside to bring the garbage to the bin it didn’t feel as hot as it has lately. I wandered a little bit. On the side of our apartment there was a stretch of un-paved ground.


Found some of the sand of Doha here in this little patch of unpaved dirt.

See those poor shriveled up plants? I’ve seen a few gardens here. They look a lot like that. Most of the gardens are very small and covered with shade cloth, but they’re still brown and shriveled. Maybe they’re done for the season. Or maybe it’s where the chickens are kept. I hear roosters crowing in the mornings and evenings here. Someone nearby, a few someones, keeps chickens somewhere.

Success!

I ran back inside to get my handy little plastic cup I had on standby for such an occasion. The ground looks hard here. It literally resembles concrete dust with bits of construction rubble spread throughout. So when I went to scoop the soil, I thought surely it would be hard and I’d have to scrape.

Not so.

The cup sank down into the earth as if it were butter. I gathered up a nice bit to take home and experiment with.

A little of the sand of Doha and a feather too.
A cup full of sand and a feather.

Soil Texture

The light and looseness of the soil surprised me, but it shouldn’t have. On windy days here, the sand kicks up into the air and lingers even once the wind has died down. It’s more like dust than sand. It’s not like the sand in Florida or any of the coastal places I’ve been in the U.S. This stuff consists of some very lightweight materials, like talcum.

A brutal and hot, hazy day with sand and humidity in the air in Doha, Qatar.
A brutal and hot, hazy day with sand and humidity in the air in Doha, Qatar.

Anyway, if no one takes it out of my bag during a searches at the customs counters, I guess I’ll get to try out the idea of making a watercolor paint from the sand of Doha after all. If it works, it’ll be a very limited quantity color unless I can get Rob to go around scooping up sand for me once I’m gone, ha.

More Sand of Doha

There is still the possibility that I’ll get the chance to go to the Corniche, which is a walkway and park along the coast. I haven’t seen the museum yet, which is in the same area. It’s just been so hot it’s hard to enjoy doing anything that requires walking around outside. But if I go, there will be the opportunity to get a little more of maybe a different sort of sand here.

Closing Notes

An interesting thing I’ve noticed here.

The water is HOT. I tried to take a shower around mid-day the other day and nearly scalded myself. Not even kidding. Even the cold tap water gets too hot for a mid-day shower here.

I’ve enjoyed my stay here. Walking through the souq, knowing the people here still shop in that environment and that it isn’t just a tourist attraction, is interesting. The air is full of sounds – of traffic, yes, because the highways surround the blocked off market area. But also sounds that haven’t changed in centuries. Shopkeepers haggling with shoppers, doves cooing, and the clink and clatter of merchandise being traded for in a setting as old as the history of civilized man.

A view from the Souq Waqif.
A view from the Souq Waqif.

There were old men in traditional garb with turbans and gowns pushing wheelbarrows fitted with cushion. They sat in the shade cast by the buildings on the cushions. When one of the local women came out of a shop laden with bags, the old man would jump out of his wheelbarrow and rush over to her to see if she wanted to hire him to cart her bags for her. I asked one of them if I could take his picture, but he said no. I figured he would, but that’s why I asked first. It is against their religion to have their photograph made (I think) and I didn’t want to offend him by taking that from him without his permission. So no pic of that to share, but I’ve seen them online before.

The Food!

The air is full of smells, too. My favorite dining experience was at the crowded little Yemeni restaurant, surrounded by nothing but the sounds of people speaking in a language I couldn’t understand and the flavors of foods whose names I couldn’t pronounce. Tasting the foods of a place is one of my favorite things to do when traveling.

Qatar is a small country on a small peninsula jutting out into the Arabian Sea. Almost everything is imported here from surrounding countries, including the labor force. So there are restaurants with authentic food to represent pretty much every group. There were a lot of western fast food restaurants here, too. We tried one to see how the menu looked, but the food was awful. If you’re in a foreign country, just try eating as the natives there do, rather than trying to find something familiar from home, haha.

What Did I Not Enjoy?

The only thing I didn’t enjoy was the heat. It is oppressive and I am amazed that anyone can ever get acclimated enough to work outside in it. Rob has to work outside sometimes with his job, and it’s very hard to do without becoming heat stressed and sick by the end of a day. There is no way to capture that experience in a photograph. Even telling you the temperature won’t do it. If you’ve never been to the Middle East and want a close approximation of how the heat feels, go turn on your oven and let it preheat. When the alarm dings to let you know it’s ready, lean over and open the door. Don’t lean in so close you get burned, right? But when you feel the whoosh of hot air coming out and blowing across your face, that’s pretty close to how it feels here. Seriously.

I didn’t do a very good job of journaling to write all of these things down, even though I brought a journal and intended to do so. I didn’t get very many photographs on this trip either. While Rob was at work during the weekdays, I spent my time painting and writing on my novel. I wanted to do some sort of painting that would capture the spirit of being in the Middle East, but I also wanted it to be relevant to home.

So I painted a falcon. Except I chose a falcon native to the Ozarks to be that representative, the kestrel. Now when I look at those in the future I hope they stir up the memories of how it felt to be here searching for the sand of Doha.

American kestrels I painted while in Doha, Qatar, 2018.
American kestrels I painted while in Doha, Qatar, 2018.

Art Satchel-A Souvenir from Doha

Camel leather satchel is my new art bag. A souvenir from Doha, Qatar.
This camel leather satchel is my new art bag. A souvenir from Doha, Qatar.

This old, beat-up looking camel leather bag is my new art satchel. I love it. It’s a souvenir from Doha, Qatar, where I’ve spent the last two weeks. It has enough room to hold my paints, journal, a few favorite pencil colors, brushes and rags. It even holds my easel, if I don’t mind the top poking out of the corner. The easel is just a little too long for it, but I think it works well enough. What a great item for a traveling artist to have.

It's easy to be a traveling artist with this awesome camel skin art satchel from my stay in Doha, Qatar.
What a great item for the traveling artist!

Pictures from Doha

If you haven’t been following along on Instagram or Facebook, you’ve missed the photos. It’s easier to post them there than it is to post here, so I usually just skip the website/blog. Here are some, in case you’re curious. Doha is the capital city of Qatar. I’ll be here for another week before heading home. My husband is working here and I’ve been visiting. Next week, I’ll have to pack up my art satchel, computer, and clothes and head back home. Then I’ll just be a traveling artist toting my supplies down the driveway, ha.

Today was the first day I ventured out by myself. I went to get some groceries and used Uber to get a ride. My phone battery was almost dead so I didn’t want to use up battery life taking photos. Next week I might take another trip out to the museum if we don’t get to go to it this weekend while Rob is off of work, and I’ll definitely take more pics then.

I’ve never used Uber before and was a bit nervous but everything went great! The driver was quick to get here at the apartment to pick me up and again (different driver) to pick me up from the Geant’s grocery store when I was ready to leave. You might be wondering what kind of groceries did I get out here…

I got hummus, tomatoes, orange juice, and flat bread. Almost everything sold here is imported from neighboring countries. For instance, the tomatoes are from Holland and the Orange Juice is from Lebanon. They make the hummus and breads daily here.

Art Satchel for Me, Souvenirs for Others

I’ve only just now gotten a couple of souvenirs. A couple of friends sent money with me to buy them something interesting while I’m here, plus I wanted to get some things for family members. There’s no telling when I might get to travel again, so I want to get unique, ‘full of place’ items.

It’s unlikely that the items will be from Qatar, though at the Souq Waqif I did see several stalls that had signs stating the crafts were handmade by Qatari artists. As I said earlier about the groceries, most things are imported here. But there are some things that say ‘Qatar’, and there are things from the Middle East, so I should be able to mark some off the list soon. It’s okay if it’s not something made in Qatar, but it needs to at least be something made in the Middle East.

Traveling Artist, Signing Off

It might be after I get home before I get a chance to post again. This traveling artist and writer will be heading home soon. I’m sure I’ll have a lot of catching up to do with things at home, too. I’ll be back at the Kingston Square Arts shop on the 29th of July, and back at the market sooner or later.

Before I go back to the market I have to come up with some things to sell. I’m pretty sure all the fairy gardens will be dead or in need of repotting before I can sell them. I have paintings to make and paints to make, too.

Nature Art Anywhere, Even in the Desert

I brought my sandstone powder and watercolors with me on vacation to Doha because I wanted to be able to experiment with them during the days while Rob was at work and I was at the apartment. They’re fortunately very portable, so it makes it possible to do nature art anywhere. Even on the other side of the world, in the desert and the city.

Going through customs with me made me a little nervous because I wasn’t sure how they’d be taken if my bags got searched, but no one seemed to care about them. I packed my brushes and art pads in the same space so it would be easy to see what they were for, just in case.

They weren’t quite dry yet when I left but the arid desert air has certainly taken care of that. I had just finished making the last tin of paint the day before my plane left, so I hadn’t had time to do any doodling at all since they’d dried to see how they would work.

Handmade Paints

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The first attempt was okay. Not my best work, but since it was the first time trying to use the paints, and the first time in I can’t remember how long working with paint and brushes, my expectations weren’t high.  I wanted to find out how the color went down on the watercolor paper and at the same time capture the way it looks here at the apartments where Rob lives.

Ha, for the sake of anyone else trying to do art and finding that it’s not working for them, I am going to post this side-by-side of the painting and the photograph. It really makes me wonder what was going on with my eyes as I was painting. The two look nothing alike, except that there is a palm tree in both. Maybe it’s an eye-hand coordination issue. Whatever the problem, I’m glad I decided to go on and try something else afterward.

You can do nature art anywhere, but there's no guarantee it's going to be 'good' art. This is my rendering of the way it looks outside the apartment here in Doha. I like the palm tree but the rest leaves a lot to be desired.
You can do nature art anywhere, but there’s no guarantee it’s going to be ‘good’ art. This is my rendering of the way it looks outside the apartment here in Doha. I like the palm tree but the rest leaves a lot to be desired.

 

I like the palm tree, but the buildings are wonky and look nothing at all like the real buildings, and I didn’t even attempt to put the cat in there.

Nature Art Anywhere

Falconry is big in the Middle East. There is a falcon souq (market) here and it’s on my list of things I want to see. Since I had falcons on my mind, I decided to try painting one. I decided to paint an American kestrel because it’s our native little falcon and one of Rob’s favorite birds.

This painting came out MUCH better than the first one. I should stay away from trying to paint urban nature scenes, I think. I used a photograph for this one too and it ended up looking much more like the original than the apartment scene did.

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Portability

Colored pencils are probably more portable than anything else for doing nature art anywhere. A single regular pencil would do to capture quick scenes. I started out packing a regular pencil. And a few colored pencils. Then I added a sharpener and eraser to the little pouch. Then I thought maybe a few more colors wouldn’t hurt. Before I knew it, the whole box of 132 colors was in my suitcase. And then a few days before my departure date I started playing with the sandstone and making watercolors.

So then I wanted to also bring those.

As you can imagine, I didn’t bring as many clothes or makeup or shoes as a woman might bring on a faraway destination trip. But I did bring art supplies. And I’ve found that I can do nature art anywhere. Even on the other side of the world when it’s too hot to go outside.

 

My first set of all handmade watercolor paints.

Making My Own Watercolor Paints from Ozark Pigments

Since we moved up here about thirteen years ago, I’ve collected the broken shards of colorful sandstone rocks. I marveled at all the various shades they came in and always wondered if I could somehow find a way to use them for something. In the back of mind, the possibility of making paint from them lurked and mulled, waiting for the right time to bubble up to front and center. That day finally arrived a week or two ago. I’ve been grinding stones, smashing herbs, and making handmade watercolor paint every day since.

Watercolor Trials

Not all of my watercolor-making experiments ended up pretty. Some were downright ugly colors, no lie. But there’s an art to this, and like any other art, it takes practice to get good at it. I’m not there yet. Not only will I need practice to get a good recipe for making the paint, I’ll need practice to learn what ingredient needs to be varied when using different pigments or herbs to make the paint.

And then I’ll need practice to get good at using watercolor paint as an art medium.

So far this process has been extremely satisfying. It’s something really productive and fun I can do with the grand-girls, too. Most of all, the materials for the most part are free, and the smaller parts needed are inexpensive. All of the expense in the final sale prices of handmade watercolors is due to the amount of labor involved. It’s very labor intensive, especially if you’re starting from scratch with rocks or clay or plants.

First Successful Set

These are the colors in the first set I successfully made. Except for the turmeric, all of these are watercolor paints made from stone and herbs right outside the back door at home.

Except for the turmeric, all of these are watercolor paints made from stone and herbs right outside the back door at home.

As I said, I still need to tweak the recipe because some of the colors have too much sheen, and some are too sticky and take too long to dry. I’m not sure some of them, like the Perilla Green, will ever dry enough to not be sticky on the paper.

But for the purpose of making paint, watercolors I can actually use to produce art, I feel successful with this set because I can at least use them to paint a picture. When I get that done, I’ll add the finished work to this page so you can see what I came up with.

Update 9/15/18: none of the first set of paints I made using the plants are light fast, so I’ve abandoned using herbs for making paints. Except for the sassafras. That one actually intensified with exposure and is very light-fast. All of the stone or soil/clay pigments are light fast.

Collection No. 6, packaged and ready to ship! Uploading to Etsy on 1/11/2019.
Collection No. 6

Update 2/8/19: I’ve gotten MUCH better at both painting and making the paints. When I make my own paints for any paintings I’m working on, I make extra and sell those at Etsy. I’ve kept my focus on using only the Ozark pigments and am now working on a compilation project of Ozark Birds of Prey. If you’d like to follow along with my progress, look me up on Instagram. I post there much more frequently than here.

The Colors of Place

The first set of watercolors represent a slice of Wild Ozark. All of them, except the Turmeric, were made from stone and herb right outside my back door. Since I have other yellows from the elderberry leaf and sassafras, the set is complete even without the turmeric. I am still searching for something to use to produce a shade of blue. A friend mentioned the flowers of day flower, so i’ll try that the next time they bloom or I’ll try the leaf and stem from it when I get back home to gather some.

Right now I’m in Doha, the capital city of Qatar. I hope to gather some stones, pieces of brick, and herbs or spices to make a collection to represent this place. It’s something I’ll likely do for every place I visit in the future, too.

First Attempt at using watercolors

My first attempt wasn’t too good. The buildings are wonky and it looks nothing at all like the actual scene. But I managed to prove that I could make color on a page, and even though I don’t like the finished work I can see the potential for the paints.

Update 7/10/18

Here’s a painting I made while here in Doha of a kestrel. I call it “American Kestrel in Doha”. The russet feathers are done with my sandstone watercolor, while the faint blush in the background is made with the dry pigment I used to make the watercolor. The yellow is elderberry leaf and the gray is from black-eyed Susan flower, leaf, and stem. The only color I didn’t have on hand was black, and because of that I resorted to using my black Prismacolor pencil, which did not work well over the gray wing feather tips. I’ll have to make black very soon and try this bird again.

kestrel done in handmade watercolors
Kestrel no. 1, painted while in Doha, Qatar, using handmade watercolors that made the trip with me. Approximately 5″ x 7″. Not for sale.

The next attempt to paint a picture with my first set of watercolors came out much better. My skill showed improvement, and my knowledge of how to work with the paints had grown. There is so much potential for this medium and I’m excited to continue my development when I get home from my trip!

My second attempt at a kestrel, and the third attempt at making a watercolor painting.
My second attempt at a kestrel, and the third attempt at making a watercolor painting, also painted with handmade watercolors while in Doha. Approximately 9″ x 7″. Sold ($150)

Kestrel No. 3, featuring all handmade watercolor paints made from local stone and clay sources. Panic stage navigated.
Kestrel No. 3, featuring all handmade watercolor paints made from local stone and clay sources. Approximately 8″ x 10″, sold ($250).

Going forward with Watercolor

I’ll soon be making more paints and more paintings. As soon as I have a product good enough to offer for sale to others, I’ll list the paints here and at Etsy, and at Kingston Square Arts. Workshops are already being requested. The first one is planned for November, to be held at the Kingston Square Arts shop.

If you want to see the paintings, as I get them done, I upload the final pics to my painting page. I also post my progress pics on Instagram, so follow me there if you like to see the sometimes agonizing process. When they’re finished, they’ll be placed on consignment at Kingston Square Arts if they aren’t sold before I get them to the shop. The first two were sold nearly the day I posted the finished photo to Instagram. I’ll be there on Sundays to demonstrate and answer questions. If you want to know when the workshop is scheduled, check my schedule page often. You can also join my mailing list and get announcements by email, along with the information on how to make the paints and paintings.

Every time I make a painting, I record the steps. This helps me to improve on the next one. It can also help others who are wanting to make some of their own.

The creeks are nearly dry.

Nearly Dry

We’ve had some rain lately, but not enough. The creek that runs through our land is nearly dry now. Thankfully, there are still a few constantly refilling pools here and there, or else I’d have to carry water to the horses.

Even the spring puddles on the way to the back gate are completely dry. That rarely happens.

While the creeks are low it is a great time to look for pigment stones and arrowheads, though. I haven’t looked for arrowheads, but I have been collecting a lot of stones with colors I can’t wait to extract when I get back from a trip to the real desert.

It only feels like a desert here. The real desert awaits in Doha, Qatar. Photos will commence in a few days!

Nearly dry creek at Wild Ozark. This is the only source of water for my horses, but there are still pools constantly being refilled so they're alright.
There’s still a few refilling watering holes on the creek but it’s nearly dry now. Hope it rains good soon.

I’ve been trying to learn the new Photoshop and in this one I played with focus and color. Lots of learning still needed.

My very first paint made from sandstone earth pigments.

Nature Art Recap for the Month of June

The past weeks were very creative ones for me with nature art. I tried something new and have found a new passion that’s bound to grow with a little time – milling pigments! Next step in that exploration is making handmade watercolor paints. I also spent some time making a couple new Forest Folk. Here’s June’s nature art recap of endeavors at Wild Ozark.

Nature Art Recap

Pigments Right Outside the Back Door

This has turned out to be an all-consuming passion! It started in my mind years ago when I noticed the beautiful the color inside the cracked sandstone rocks on the driveway. Then when the grand-kids were over the other day I picked up one of the cracked rocks and decided to give grinding it in the mortar and pestle a go.

And it definitely went! Making pigments takes a person very close to the earth and is an immersive sort of nature art. The kids (and the kitchen) were very dirty when we were done.

This little experiment really set my wheels to turning. A longer post about making pigments and watercolor paints will come in August. For now, here's a nature art recap for June.
This little experiment really set my wheels to turning.

There will almost certainly be a line of Wild Ozark Earth Pigments arising from this. So far I’ve made a beautiful brown, nice yellow, and am working on a green right now. After my vacation I’ll get right to work on developing a palette of earthy watercolors from local sources of minerals and plants.

Forest Folk

It’s been a while since I’d made any Forest Folk, but wanted to have a few new things to use for show and tell at a workshop I did at the Ozark Folkways for children the other day.

Nature art recap: The two latest Forest Folk are also on display and for sale at the Kingston Square Arts shop.
The two latest Forest Folk are also on display and for sale at the Kingston Square Arts shop.

Chapter 27 in 2nd Hit (Book 2 of my Renegade Agents of A.R.S.A. rural fantasy series)

While it’s not nature art in the same sense of the word as a physical work of art, writing is also art and my writing involves a lot of nature-influenced scenes and scenarios.

Plans for July

So next month I’ll be in Doha, Qatar. Look for a change of scenery in my photos posted to Instagram and here on the blog! When I return home I’ll be working on a line of earth and plant pigment watercolor paints. Multi-layered nature art! Also on the list are more of my art mushrooms, just in case I do get accepted to any of the shows I’ve applied to in fall. I’ll definitely need more of them if that happens and I don’t want to wait until the last minute to get started.

 

Map of Kingston, AR 72742

Kingston, Arkansas?

There are some hidden treasures in the Ozarks. The tiny little town of Kingston, Arkansas is one of them.

The town itself is tiny, consisting only of a simple square with a gazebo in the middle for the “downtown” portion and across the bridge heading north there is the school and a gas station. That comprises the “uptown”.

Last I knew, the population was around 500. But most of the people live in the hills surrounding Kingston. And in those hills are a lot of crafty and artistic folks! You’ll see evidence of that if you stop in at some of the businesses in town the next time you’re passing through on your way to Ponca or Boxley.

What kind of business, you ask? Well, we have antique stores, a cafe, a gas station, a feed store, an old bank still using the old setup (take a look inside it), and an art gallery.

I’ve noticed that only the antique stores are said in plural. That’s a dead ‘small town’ giveaway to let you know just how small a town it really is.

Kingston Square Arts shop in Kingston, Arkansas.
Kingston Square Arts shop in Kingston, Arkansas.

Kingston Square Arts Shop (KSA)

Here’s a sampling of the kinds of things that are at the store:

 

Where the Heck is Kingston, Arkansas?

You’ll easily find it heading north on Highway 21 from Clarksville, AR (off of I-40) or by heading south on 21 (off of Hwy 412).

If you’re heading to Boxley or Ponca, you’ll already be in the vicinity.

KSA

Hours are 10-6, Thursday through Sunday.

Other than in the physical shop, you can find KSA on Facebook and at the website (still working on that). I’m the web and social mistress of the shop, so I’ll often post pictures of the items Greg (the house potter) or Barb (the house fiber artist) is working on or interesting things in there that’s for sale, or new things that the artists and artisans bring in to sell.

If you spot anything you want, it’s okay if you’re not close enough to drop in. They ship! Just post on the image in the FB timeline to ask if it’s available and they’ll take it from there.

If you’d rather call, the phone number is (479) 665-2559. The address is 100 Public Square, Kingston, AR 72742.

If you’re worried you won’t be able to find it, don’t be. If you can find the town of Kingston, you’ll find the square. And if you can find the square, you’ll definitely find the shop. It’s the big white store on the corner across from the post office.

Want to see some other places? Aside from KSA there are other things worth a stop in our tiny town.

Grandpa’s Antique Store

Maybe the only shop open on Sunday’s, Grandpa’s Antique store is on the square, too. If you have a pot missing a lid, whether cast iron or not, I bet you can find one to fit in Grandpa’s. There’s a lot of antiques and collectibles housed in this historic building, too.

The Bank

The bank is also a historic building. Pretty much all of the buildings on the square are. Inside the bank you can see the old tin ceiling tiles and the old bank vault. Both are in the lobby.

Others

There’s also a cafe (Waldron Valley Cafe), Bargain Buddy (antiques) the library (very small by most standards, but much larger than it used to be!), another antique store, and a new feed store. There’s a gas station just off the square to the north that also serves food.

I’ve probably left something out, so if you’re reading this and want to mention another spot to stop in our town of Kingston, Arkansas, or talk about the history of Kingston, just leave a comment and let everyone know!

Organizing, Day 2. One of the More Odd Boxes in My Nature Art Studio

I’ve been organizing my studio and categorizing my nature art supplies so they’re easier to find when I need them.

I've been organizing my studio and categorizing my nature art supplies so they're easier to find when I need them.
Some of the categories are boxed and on the shelf. Lots more to go, though.

It’s a normal habit of mine to collect things during my morning walks. Lichens, mosses, interesting rocks, chunks of sandstone or clay, bark and leaves are all on the ‘watch for’ list.

There’s another category of things I like to collect, too.

A box for everything. Organizing my nature art studio.

Bones and Dead Things need Organizing too.

Bet you’d like a peek inside this box.

Here you go.

Organizing my nature art studio.

Yes that is a dead hummingbird.

No. I did not kill it.

The hummingbird just appeared, all dead and spread out like that, on the porch one winter. So being the collector of things of nature that I am, I gathered it up with glee.

Quite possibly the tiniest feather I've ever collected.
This is quite possibly the tiniest feather I’ve ever collected. It’s from the throat of a male Ruby-Throated hummingbird.

 

The scapula bones are most likely from a deer.

The other bones are a skull and jaw of some little critter, probably a squirrel or rabbit, that died under the pines near the pond.

And of course there’s the turtle (tortoise) shell. I think most people would collect that if they’d found it. That’s one my husband found and brought in because he knew it would be a perfect gift for someone like me.

What to Do with Them?

One day I might make something crafty with these items. Or I might just leave them as they are in this box. Now that it has a label and the grandkids are learning to read, I’ll bet it draws a curious eye soon.

Where Can You Find My Nature Art?

Right now, the only place to see any of it in person is at the Kingston Square Arts shop in Kingston, AR. That’s in northwest Arkansas, but I find a lot of folks who live in the Fayetteville metro area have never heard of it. It’s a great destination for a drive out to the country. Just put it into your GPS and go take a look at our tiny little town of population 500.

Otherwise you can see them at the War Eagle Festival in October. If I get into any other shows, I’ll definitely update my online schedule calendar.

Now that I’m on a roll with the organizing, I hope to be finished before I leave for vacation next month. When I get back at the end of July, I’ll be adding more works to my catalog here in the online shop and to Etsy, and I’ll post photos to FB. Follow my Forest Folk & Fairy Stuff page if you want to see them as I get them done.

A sign I put up to protect the Virginia snakeroot plants.

Oh no! The Virginia Snakeroot babies are all gone!

Virginia snakeroot at the Wild Ozark Ginseng Habitat Demonstration Garden.
Virginia snakeroot (Aristolochia serpentaria)

I went out to check on the Virginia snakeroot nursery the other day and was mortified to find nothing. Not. One. Plant.

Virginia Snakeroot … What’s That?

Now, you might be wondering just what’s so important about a plant that really looks like nothing much more than a weed in the woods. It’s a plant of interest to me for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a medicinal plant with a history of being used to treat snakebites and mad dog (rabies). I’m not likely to use it for either of these, but I do have an affinity for medicinal plants.

Second, it’s harder and harder to find because there’s actually a market for the roots. People dig them and then sell them to botanical purveyors who then sell them to pharmaceutical or herbal companies.

It Even Has Look-Alikes

There’s another plant that has very similar leaf shape, but it isn’t snakeroot.

Not Virginia snakeroot. Not sure what it is, though I know what it isn't.
Not Virginia snakeroot. Not sure what it is, but I know what it isn’t.

There’s a long article on the plant and how it was once used at the Herbs2000.com website.

For the past several years I’ve searched our property for this plant and never could find any. In 2015 I found the first plant, but then a major flash flood erased it from the site. Then last year while I was making trails in the Ginseng Habitat Demonstration Garden, I noticed a whole mess of the plants on a little knoll under the cedar trees.

I was so excited. I’d even placed a sign at the entrance to warn visitors not to enter that part because there were so many it would be hard to walk around them without stepping on some. I wanted to collect seeds and propagate more of them.

Poof!

And now they are gone. Completely disappeared. The ground had been disturbed by an armadillo, but I don’t think an armadillo would eat snakeroots. I didn’t see any footprints that might indicate some roaming root digger had come by. Virginia snakeroot is one of the wild plants that botanical buyers purchase, but these plants were so small it would take a ton of the little roots to earn the $30 or so per pound that they can fetch.

Besides that, there were ginseng plants in the vicinity and I can’t see a poacher taking the snakeroot without also taking the ginseng.

So what happened to them?

I think I figured out the answer.

Butterflies.

Or more specifically, caterpillars of the Pipevine Swallowtail. These butterflies are not the pollinators for Virginia snakeroot, but the pipevine plants are the host plants for their larvae. Virginia snakeroot is one of the pipevines, as is wild ginger and Dutchmen’s pipe vine.

While we have lots of wild ginger around, we don’t have many of the Dutchmen’s pipe and I’ll bet what happened to my plants is that they were eaten by the larvae of butterflies. Actually, they weren’t ‘my’ plants. I’m sure the butterflies were excited to see them and call them theirs, too.

It’s the explanation that makes the most sense. If that’s the case, they’ll be back next year. I can find a way to protect a few plants and share the rest with the butterflies. Keep your fingers crossed!

The flower isn't mature yet in this photo. It was when I went back out there to get another photo of the flower that I noticed they were all gone.
The flower isn’t mature yet in this photo. It was when I went back out there to get another photo of the flower that I noticed they were all gone.

 

How to Make Your Own Fairy Garden Pool

Make a Fairy Pool Fairy Garden Accessory

I make fairy gardens and fairy garden accessories for my market booth at the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market. Want to make a fairy pool? Here’s how I do it. I sell kits to make these (bringing them to market for the first time this weekend), but you can make it yourself by following these instructions below without the kit.

Feel free to improvise at any point and make something unique! Here’s a short video tutorial… I need to practice making better videos! Lucky for you, the more detailed instructions are below.

Supplies You’ll Need to Make a Fairy Pool

The little glass pebbles sold wherever garden and or craft supplies are sold make perfect foundations for tiny fairy pools. They come in various colors but I like the green and blue ones.

If you plan to make yourself plenty of these you’ll want to buy the materials individually. But if you want to make just one or two fairy pool accessories, I have kits available for $10. They contain everything except the tools you’ll need. All of the other materials (pebbles, stones, twigs, herb for moss, and a little piece of parchment) are included.

Make Your Fairy Pool

Start with a small piece of parchment paper. This makes everything you do later much easier because it doesn’t stick to the hot glue.

Place your glass pebble flat side down on the parchment.

Step 1 for How to Make a Fairy Pool

Begin gluing small stones around it. Try to finish with a flat stone slightly higher than the others so there’s a good surface to attach the diving board or pool deck.

Once you have all the stones where you want them, use the paintbrush to add the liquid glue over all the places where the hot glue shows up on the outside of your pool assembly.

Pile the herbs so they're ready to use after you brush on the glue.
Pile the herbs so they’re ready to use after you brush on the glue.

If you plan to put your pool in a moist environment like a terrarium, use an exterior glue.
If you plan to put your pool in a moist environment like a terrarium, use an exterior glue.

Dab the pool so that the glue picks up the loos green powdered herb. Rubbed sage works, but I use powdered sassafras leaf (gumbo file’) because it retains a fairly green color a lot longer than some of the other green herbs and it’s a finer powder. The ones in the photos above are using rubbed sage. The one below is one I made with the powdered sassafras leaf.

Closer view of Fairy Pool #1
Fairy Pool using powdered sassafras leaf for the ‘moss’ on the rocks.

The herb resembles moss on your rocks and looks a lot better than the hot glue.

Step 8 Dabbing the Herb

Step 9 Let it Dry
Let it Dry

Once the wet glue and herbs are dry you can use canned air to blow out the loose bits. Or just use your breath and give it a good puff or three.

Now it’s time to add the ‘water’ to the pool. Use the hot glue gun to fill the pool to the surface. Too add color you can shave some crayons to dye the glue. In this one I did not use the crayons so you can see the color without it. The blue glass at the bottom gives a blue cast but it’s a stronger blue if you add the crayon shavings.

Fill the fairy pool with hot glue to make it appear full of water.
Fill the fairy pool with hot glue to make it appear full of water.

 

Add Accents

After the hot glue is dried, add your finishing details! Want a diving board? You can make one from tiny twigs. Same for a deck. The only limitation is your imagination. I like to use jewelry wire to make curls for accents and handrails.

You can use sand to make a little ‘beach’ area.

Diving Board

Here’s the steps using the kit to make a diving board. You can use twigs to make this at home without the kit. Even with the kit you might have access to better twigs to suit your purpose more to your liking.

Flatten a short piece of twig using heavy pliers or wire cutters.
Flatten a short piece of twig using heavy pliers or wire cutters.

You may have to glue another small rock to make a good spot for the diving board to rest. Glue the diving board onto the pool.

Now make the ladder using more small twigs. Lay out two longer pieces, then add twigs for the rungs. It’s easier to glue the rungs if you leave the twigs long and then cut them after it has dried/cooled.

Making a Ladder for the Fairy Pool diving board
Leave the twigs long for the rungs until after the glue dries.

Then cut them all to the same length with wire cutters or snips.
Then cut them all to the same length with wire cutters or snips.

Attach the ladder to the diving board.

Ladder for Diving Board

Finishing Touches

Pretty much all done now unless you want to add a guard rail. There is one included in the kit. It may need to be bent or shaped to fit your specific diving board but you can use it however you like.

Finished Fairy Garden Pool
Finished Fairy Garden Pool

You can use a little more of the herbs to cover the glue on the ladder if you want.

Finished pool using my Make a Fairy Pool Kit

Let me know if you try to make one!

Morning Birdsong Sounds at Wild Ozark

I’m working on a How-To post for making a Fairy Garden pool because I’ve made a cool little kit for folks who want to make it for themselves, but in the meantime here’s some lovely dawn-time birdsong sounds for you to enjoy 🙂

One of my favorite photos so far this year. Stormy skies, hay ready for mowing, and flowers blooming.
One of my favorite photos so far this year. Stormy skies, hay ready for mowing, and flowers blooming.