Handmade 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.

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.

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.

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.

The scan of the painting gives the white in the kestrel’s face a rosy cast. This is not present in the actual painting.

I used my handmade pigments and watercolors for everything except the black. For that I had to use a Prismacolor pencil because I didn't make any black paint before I left for my trip.
I used my handmade pigments and watercolors for everything except the black. For that I had to use a Prismacolor pencil because I didn’t make any black paint before I left for my trip.

First Hunt by Ima ErthwitchPredator and Prey, or the hunter and the hunted is a common theme throughout my fiction writing. No Qualms, one of my short stories (free at most retailers) is about about a predator/prey relationship. Symbiosis, my first finished novel, not published yet, deals with predator/prey relationships and the balance of energy among life on earth, sometimes symbolic and often outright. Many of my flash fiction stories (I have twitterfiction and 100-word flash stories) are also dealing with this same dynamic. This is a strong theme that runs through most of my fiction and is strongly influenced by life in the wild Ozarks where we live. My first published novel, First Hunt, also has a predator and prey theme to it. I guess it's just part of my nature.

Nature Farming


Wild Ozark is 160 acres of beautiful wild Ozark mountains. I call what I do "nature farming" because the land produces, all by itself, the shagbark hickory trees, ferns, moss, ground-fall botanicals, and the perfect habitats for growing and stewarding American ginseng. I'm co-creating with Nature - all of the things I use to make the Fairy Gardens and Forest Folk, the bark we harvest for Burnt Kettle's shagbark hickory syrup, are produced by nature without my input. This land is my muse for inspiration when it comes to my writing, drawing, and photography. It's truly a Nature Farm.

About the voice behind this blog, Madison Woods

I'm a creative old soul living way off the beaten path with my husband in the wild Ozark Mountains. Besides homesteading, growing plants & making crafty things and newsletters, I write books and stories. My rural fantasy fiction, written under the pen name, Ima Erthwitch, usually takes place in a much altered Ozarks.


2 thoughts on “Handmade Watercolor Paints from Ozark Pigments

    1. Thanks! I should have some time to start with the painting experiments next week 🙂 Brought my papers, paints, and some brushes with me all the way to the other side of the world, lol.

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