A long while back I had picked up some crumbly clay-like rocks with interesting colors while passing through a nearby canyon. Since I’ve been practicing making watercolor paint from various pigments I thought I’d try making my own pigment from scratch using one of these rocks.
It was very easy to break it into smaller pieces, but little bits kept flying off even though I was trying to be gentle with the hammer. I wore safety goggles for this. A larger mallet might have been useful.
I worked at it with light taps from the hammer until it seemed to be a fine powder… except that it wasn’t. Scraping the powder onto notecards showed many chunks that were far from being powder.
So I put it in a granite mortar and pestle that’s been around for as long as I can remember as part of the “decor.” Grinding the pigment in a stirring motion was pretty easy and all the bits broke down into powder. This will be my pigment grinder thing from now on. It was at this point that my neighbor’s cat decided to climb up onto my leg, and from there to my shoulders, while I knelt. I walked around for a minute with a
parrot cat perched on my shoulder. ^_^
It might have been a good thing to wash the pigment to get rid of impurities, but I’ve never washed pigment before so I’ll have to experiment with that some other time. The muller and grinding plate I’m holding up here was gotten from Natural Pigments.
Before mulling, the pigment should be mixed with its binder using a palette knife. I’m using a mix of gum arabic, vegetable glycerin, and local honey. I haven’t done this enough times to have a good grasp on how much of each of these to use, but I think I’m getting better the more times I do this.
The mulling process involves moving the muller in a stirring motion over the paint and takes a bit of time and effort. I kept adding more gum arabic, glycerin, and honey as I worked because it felt too stiff. At the start there was still a lot of grit in the pigment but over time it smoothed out.
Here’s the finished paint. A plastic putty knife from the hardware store makes a good scrapper for getting the paint off the muller and gathering it back into a pile at the center of the plate. I did that several times while mulling.
Click for a larger view
Here’s the paint in different applications on paper, Fabriano Artistico, 300 lb soft press. The photo was taken in full sunlight and then adjusted slightly for brightness and to reduce the over saturation in the photo. This is where I was thinking I might have needed to wash the pigment because there were a few very tiny dark particles that didn’t stick to the paper and brushed off after the paint was dry. It granulated nicely in wet on wet and was surprisingly dark when used full strength.
Overall it was a huge success. Maybe for now I’ll call it Canyon Earth? I didn’t use all of the pigment that I made and I still have other rocks with variations of color to try in the future.