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Decorating with nature in more than one sense of the word! Ponca in Summertime in Ozark pigments.

Ponca in Summertime- the Process & the Pigments

I’m a little late getting the process post for this one written. Ponca in Summertime started out plein air. I went out there one morning in mid-August with my Ozark pigments, easel and a chair with the plan to just paint what I saw. That’s a lot harder to do than it looks! My rendering focused in on a small section of the river where the bluffs come right down to the water and there’s an arching tree hanging over. This tree, or one just like it, has graced the reflective surface of the water in that spot since I’ve lived here.

But I am not an experienced landscape artist and so the struggle was real. I’m still finding my feet as an painter in general. Since I started this watercolor adventure in the summer of 2018, I’ve focused mostly on birds of prey, with a few random birds and critters in between. I liked painting this Ponca scene and will try another one soon.

Before morning had ended, the heat had arrived and I packed up my gear. And before that, I took a pic with my phone so I could finish the scene later. While sitting there beside the water, I used water from the Buffalo River itself to wet my paints.

How it looked after the plein air session. Will finish from my photograph while at home now.
How it looked after the plein air session. Will finish from my photograph while at home now.

The Ozark Pigments

Ordinarily I use only light-fast earth pigments for my paintings made from rocks, clay, or other resources I find here at Wild Ozark. This painting still uses all Ozark pigments, but this time I used a green lake made from the red leaves of black gum. The other colors aside from green came from charred bone, creek shale, and sandstones of black, brown, red, and yellow hues.

Ordinarily I don’t use colors I’ve made from plants because most are not permanent. For now, and most likely for many years, this green will stay green if kept beneath good UV protection glazing. Right now it’s framed with Conservation Clear by TruVu and offers 99% protection from UV rays.

Because the green pigment is not lightfast it will eventually turn more brown than green. The scene will evolve to reflect the changing of the season and will hopefully retain its beauty, or maybe even grow more beautiful in the same way nature does in the shift from summer to autumn.


Usually I add some notes on the back side of a framed painting. This time I decided to do it where it can be seen from the front. I wrote around the outside edges of the painting on the backer, and floated the painting inside the frame. What do you think? Should I do it on the front like this, or continue with notes on the back?

Making the green for Ponca in Summertime

You can read about the process of making this green at my Paleo Paints website. It’s a ‘lake’ pigment, which means it was made by precipitating the dye portion of the plant with a chemical reaction. I used alum and calcium carbonate.

Where to see this painting

Until November 30, Ponca in Summertime is hanging at the 1894 Gallery in Texarkana, TX for the Our Heritage Through the Arts show. I have two other paintings in the exhibit for the same show. If it doesn’t sell during the show, I’ll have it with me at the Dec. 7 Little Craft Show in Bentonville, AR.

Where is Ponca?

Ponca is in Newton county in northwest Arkansas. It’s one of the popular put-in points for floaters on the Buffalo River. Want to see this scene in real life? Head on over through Boxley Valley and turn on Hwy 43 to go toward Ponca. You’ll need to turn just before Hwy 74 E to reach the low-water bridge. If you pass through Kingston on your way there and the gallery on the square is open, stop in. I might be there, especially if it’s a Sunday 🙂

My rendering of it is not exactly like the photo, though, so I hope you can recognize what I saw.

The view of the Buffalo River at the Ponca low-water bridge.
The real life view of the Buffalo River at the Ponca low-water bridge.

5 thoughts on “Ponca in Summertime- the Process & the Pigments”

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  1. Madison,
    You are becoming an exceptional artist, and you are exquisitely recording our the astoundingly beautiful natural heritage of Arkansas, and doing it “the natural way” in the Natural State using native pigments. You will become well known world-wide before long (not that this is a wholly desirable thing!), yet there is no better way to represent our extraordinary terrain and wildlife than the way you do it. You will become an emissary of their protection, I believe. I am so proud of you!

    1. Pamela, thank you so much for your encouraging words. I think if I manage to reach a fraction of this outlook, I will be happy. LOL, and I do have mixed feelings too about the world-renown thing. I think I’d be willing to live with it if my art accomplished any good for protecting our natural resources, and I wouldn’t turn down an audience of collectors ready to snap up latest works, either!

  2. I LIKE the notes around the edge. If someone was adverse to them they could always have the work re-matted to cover the writing.

    1. Thank you. I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re right. By putting the notes on the backing, it’s definitely not a permanent thing and could easily be changed by the owner. Happy to see you drop by here!

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