Research And Work With Natural Pigments In Water Color
The purpose of this project was to produce pigments from natural sources; i.e., flowers, berries, nuts, leaves, fruits and vegetables, and then to use these pigments to paint a series of water colors. My interest in this area came about as the result of the need to paint one evening when I was at home and my paints were at school. Out of desperation, I tried using instant coffee and tea as water colors. The variation in color that could be obtained from just these two products was impressive. They ranged from the lightest beige to a deep rich brown. The results that occurred from utilizing coffee and tea as water colors were pleasing and stimulated my interest in further ex- permintation in this area.
I started in the spring of 1971 to search for information on dye plants, and to begin my collection of raw materials. The main source of information was from publications intended for people who are doing fabric dyeing. Many weavers make their own dyes from natural products and dye their yarn before weaving with it. I could not find much information pertaining to the use of these products in water colors, but the information I did obtain started me out in the right direction and served as a good basis to build on.
I dried, some of the plants I collected in the spring and summer, but the majority of them I prepared with various methods. I soaked some in cold water for 21+ hours then boiled them; some were put in the blender and then boiled; some were boiled and then left to soak overnight and boiled again. Trying all these methods, I discovered that the most satisfactory method was just to cover with a small amount of water and boil slowly for about 10 minutes. This was then strained and bottled.
At this time I did not make any color samples or do any painting with these pigments. This was a mistake, because by the time I was ready to start painting in the late fall, all of these previously prepared colors had lost their brightness and had become a fairly uniform brown and contained such a variety of molds that I was afraid to even open them up. The secret (that I learned the hard way) to painting with these natural pigments is to use them right away. Some would keep a day or two, but not much longer, as they developed mold and the color deteriorated within a short time. I did freeze some of the colors, and this proved very successful.