Presentation on theme: "Homegrown Color: A Native Pigment Research Project Presented by Ken Bova School of Art & Design East Carolina University I was going to title this presentation."— Presentation transcript:
Homegrown Color: A Native Pigment Research Project Presented by Ken Bova School of Art & Design East Carolina University I was going to title this presentation “Colorful Local Dirt” until a colleague pointed out that it might be misconstrued and my audience might have something else in mind. And then they would likely be disappointed when they found out it was about earth colors. So the title remains that of my grant application.
It begins with a notebook...and water. It seemed that every day I had free to look for mineral pigments in the local drainages it would rain and the drainages would be flooded for days after, then it would rain again. So I kept notes on the rain. At first I drew small notations in the margins....
Just a little “rain drawing” to note the weather.
Then they begin to take up about a half page or so. And I started wondering how many different ways could I draw rain?
Each day that I was thwarted in my attempts to get into the field to collect, the notes on rain seemed to get just a little bigger. On days when it wasn’t raining and the ground was drying out I almost always had other commitments that prevented spending a day scouting pigment sites.
Frequently the surfaces of these areas were non-descript until I sliced into them with a spade, revealing iron oxides...
Or sometimes there were hints on the surface that showed just a little of the red earth waiting underneath.
Once cut into there would often be veins of different colors, usually ranging from a rusty red to a pale grey....
This image shows a typical slice into the side of a local creek bank with the mix of colored earths.
I collected samples from a variety of sites, noting each one with a code on the plastic bags. Pretty much everywhere I looked the range of colors was similar and I managed to sort samples into about 8 or 9 values before beginning the process of creating pigments from them. I also managed to find a small, finger-tip size piece of yellow ochre at one site, which I hope to revisit to see if I can collect more. Once it stops raining long enough....
Processing Steps for Pigments 1. Crush 2. Grind 3. Sift 4. Wash 5. Dry 6. Mix 7. Paint Once the material is collected the pigment making process is pretty simple though a little time consuming....
The material is place in a mortar and ground into a fine powder in small batches, then...
It’s sifted with a 100 mesh screen to a uniform consistency. I placed a coin or small rock in the sifter to help agitate the particles. Once each color is sifted to the 100 mesh size, washed and dried again, samples were placed in glass vials...
Here you can see small samples of the assorted earths ground into a powder and ready to be processed further. The third bottle from the left contains the tiny sample of yellow that I mentioned earlier...
At this point the material can be used as a coarse pigment for color testing (which will be shown in a moment) or further processed to a super fine powder for different media applications. A small amount is placed on a glass sheet and a little distilled water is added to make a paste.
A glass muller is used to gently grind the material into an ultra fine and smooth paste. Water is added as needed to keep the material lubricated and moving smoothly between the glass tools. The pigment is occasionally scooped back to center with a palette knife...
Once I had an assortment of coarse and fine material I set up a work bench to begin painting samples. Here you can see the glass sheet and muller in the background and some sample pages on the table...
The pigments were added to an egg tempera to create a somewhat opaque paint and applied in layers to determine the range of effects. The tempera recipe I used was given to me by an iconographer to whom it was passed down through several generations of painters.
Using the egg tempera I layered each color to create a different depth value and to see what the opacity level of each might be. This is the 100 mesh material and each pigment changes a little with additional layers...
I kept close records of which pigment was being tested and each is marked with a location code and sample number. The top line in this sample is that little bit of yellow again.
Here I used a random selection to see the effect as watercolor. The first two rows are the same pigment. The first row is just plain with (from left to right) one, two and three coats. The second row is tinted by having white added, made from processed egg shells. The same process was used for each subsequent color. Row seven is that yellow ocher as a water color and (editorializing here) I think it makes a beautiful golden yellow.
I used some of the homegrown pigments, along with blue and green commercial colored pencils, to create drawings of brooch studies..
I see these as potential designs for the color application along with the addition of gold leaf and sterling silver settings.
But these studies also give me an idea of how the pigments I made can be manipulated and applied to surfaces.
Some of the imagery comes from the plant forms I encountered while walking along the drainage areas and local trails in search of “local dirt.” So...next steps -
On-going Steps: 1.Continue collecting & refining current materials a.Grind & sift into finer particles b.Blend, tint, and shade for assorted value effects 2.Create additional test panels 3.Test pigments on metal with various base primers & grounds 4.Begin application to jewelry forms based on sketch book studies. 5.Create a resource for others to use in their own research. I will continue to collect and process materials in addition to the ones I’ve already done. I’ll be using these pigments to create samples and resources for others wanting to experiment with this process. Additionally I have planned a series of small brooches utilizing these homegrown colors as a primary focus combined with some of the found objects gathered during my collecting trips. As I gather more information, samples, and, hopefully, a wider range of colors I intend to produce a step-by-step guide for others to follow.
With Thanks to the College of Fine Arts & Communication of East Carolina University