I spent the day at the Berkeley Botanical Gardens, at a workshop taught by Judi Pettite on the making of, and use of plant pigments in dyes and inks. To those of you who have been following me for a while, you know I'm a big fan of the natural plant pigments that Kremer Pigments used to sell. They've since discontinued that line. But something about plant pigments has really drawn me in. I've been meaning to try and make my own Nettle pigment at some point, and after this workshop, I definitely want to make it, as well as many others.
Generally, you take plant matter, make an infusion in water, reduce, dry, grind, to create pigment. From there, various binders can be added to create the paint medium of choice (Gum arabic, for watercolors). I was surprised at the range of plants that could be used, and rather pleased that one of the banes of my backyard gardening existence (oxalis) can be used to make a very pretty yellow color, simply by soaking the flowers in water for a couple of days.
Japanese maples can be used for a variety of colors ranging from browns and reds to purples.
Oak galls, or black walnut hulls can be crushed and soaked in water for a week, then boiled, reduced, and dried, for a deep brown or black.
The artist geek in me was very happy to play with all the bottles and jars of powders, pastes, and dyes.
* * *
Watching a demonstration of how to apply the pigment and make it into a printmaking ink. This involved grinding and mixing with gum arabic, water, and sodium alginate (an emulsifier that adds a kind of tacky viscosity to the ink).
Experimenting. Eye-dropped some oxalis dye onto a wash. I liked how the yellow droplets gleamed like gold.
Further experimentation. Crow quill pen dipped into brazilwood ink, wet in wet with eye-dropped oxalis dye.
Playing with linocuts. Quick little birdy, charged up with indigo ink.
* * *
At the end of the day: