Verdigris Pigment: Making Green From Copper – part 1

Verdigris 2

The photo above is verdigris pigment, PG20, that I made in a copper dish. The scratches were made with a stone to reveal the color.

The name verdigris comes from the French name for “green of Greece,” which is made from copper corrosion. It’s poisonous and from what I’ve read has problems with permanence and other issues, such as damaging paper, but from ancient times until the 19th century it was the most intense green available. Today it’s very rare to see anyone selling it, so yesterday afternoon I started this experiment to make my own.

This was done with a sheet of copper that I cut into a small circle and then hammered into a bowl shape. After that I poured into it a small amount of white vinegar for its acetic acid content. Apparently different vinegars will produce different greens, but this is the only one I’ve tried so far. I had read that a little salt is suppose to help, though I don’t know the specifics, so I also sprinkled in a little sea salt. Then I just left the dish in the sun. As it evaporated I could see a rim of dark green forming around the edge of the vinegar. I forgot to check it this morning, but when I looked in the afternoon everything had evaporated. There was still a bit of a vinegar smell though, and I don’t know if I should have waited longer before collecting the pigment.

Verdigris 3

Looking closely, the bottom of the dish had many green crystals on it. They were easy to scrap off and crush with a palette knife. I also poured in some more vinegar to see if more would form tomorrow, but in the course of making this post it already evaporated and it looks like there is more green in the dish already. Again though, I don’t know if I should let it sit longer.

Verdigris 1

I made a small amount of watercolor with that pigment, just using a palette knife, and then mixed it with lemon ochre in steps to see what it’d look like. The photo shows the paint a little lighter than it really is, but the hue and intensity are pretty close. Looking at the paint from different angles shows a lot of metallic glitter. Maybe that’s copper that didn’t fully corrode?

For the next part of this experiment I’ll get enough pigment to make some oil paint with it. Then I’ll try a different method in which the copper is placed in a jar with some vinegar in the bottom and left in the sun for a month as the vapor from it fills the jar and forms verdigris crystals on the copper. :)

Earth and Graphite Sketches 3

EG Sketch 17

I’ve been so busy with many unexpected things, but here’s some more sketches from the past week. Besides these there’s a painting that I’ve been working on sketches for and some other sketches, but that’ll have to wait until next week.

Earth and Graphite Sketches 2

EG Sketch 8

Again I used pozzuoli red and graphite watercolors. In the 6th and 7th I also used a little mars yellow, and in the 8th and 9th I added zinc white into the graphite in a few places to get a bluish grey. The 6th, 7th, and 8th are copies of paintings by Thomas Girtin, Charles-François Daubigny, and David Cox.

I was thinking I’d post sketches like this on a regular schedule, using various earth and graphite watercolors. You hardly ever see graphite watercolor being used, and I think only one or two brands even make it, but I’m really starting to like how it looks and works.

Earth and Graphite Sketches 1

BR Sketch 1

Here’s a few sketches that I made with graphite watercolor paint from Daniel Smith and some red ochre watercolor that I made myself. These are just painted in a regular sketchbook, not watercolor paper, so the paper can’t be worked very much before it starts to tear. I like how these came out, so I’m planning on doing a lot more.

I was going to post a painting last week, trying out a different style, but after it was done I didn’t really like it. When I started to redo it though I got sick, so that’s why it’s been so long since the last post. :)

Star Gazing Between Cypress Trees

Night Sky Watercolor 8

While I was painting these night scenes of the sky obstructed by trees I started thinking about how conditions for doing something, like watching stars, are often not ideal. Then I was reminded of Ecclesiastes 11:4 “He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.” This is another poetic parallelism in the Bible where, in this case, the same idea is being repeated to present both cause and effect. Another way of saying it would be that if you always wait for what you think is the perfect opportunity then you’ll miss every opportunity. So what if a few trees are in the way? Can you still at least see some stars? So what if you don’t have the best painting studio? Can you still at least make a drawing?

In the last sketch I was actually trying to paint real stars from a photo I had taken. The positions aren’t completely accurate relative to each other, but they’re all real stars. The biggest one in that painting is Vega. The first painting is on proper watercolor paper, for a change.

A Deluge, after Leonardo da Vinci

A Deluge

Black watercolor on sumi-e paper, 6.25″ x 4.75″

This took a little bit longer than I expected. It’s copied from a drawing by Leonardo, though because of the age of the paper and maybe the roughness of the chalk he drew with it was hard for me to tell exactly what all the lines were meant to be, so I just made a few interpretations of my own.

I painted this because the past few days there was a lot of rain, but much less than was predicted. The prediction of what even the next few hours would be like was always being changed. I had expected to wake up yesterday to more rain, but instead there were only a few drops the whole day.

It reminded me of when Nicodemus came to speak with Jesus in the Bible, and was told by Jesus “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) Jesus was explaining the mystery of conversion to him, which is by the Spirit of God, by comparing it with wind. The effects of wind can be seen and felt, so we know that it is there, but even today with all of our technology we still can’t really say where the wind is going.

Søndermarken Park in Winter, after Vilhelm Hammershøi

Søndermarken Park in Winter 6

These are watercolor copies of a painting by a Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershøi.

The paints used were just some very old tubes of student grade Grumbacher academy ivory black and burnt sienna. I don’t know what paper I was working on because it’s an old paper pad that doesn’t have the cover sheet with information anymore. Probably sumi-e paper. A few different brushes were used over the course of these but a couple of inexpensive synthetic script brushes were used the most. I liked them more than I expected. There’s five other sketches of this but I thought this would be enough to post.