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Nov. 15th, 2006 | 12:43 am
music: Ranga - Gobi Trail

I just returned from a workshop given this past weekend in Brooklyn, New York by a Master in the art of preparing and then applying Natural Pigments:
Michael Price.


Beginning early Saturday morning at his studio on 68 Jay Street in DUMBO and ending early Sunday evening, Michael took our group - Irvin, Jock, and myself - through all the steps of preparing a natural pigment - in this case, a chunk of the mineral Azurite - for use in tempera and oil.

Michael spent the last seven years developing his protocol, which he shared with us in every detail.

If you have ever tried to paint with crushed gemstone before, you were probably quite dismayed as your brilliantly colored mineral matter was slowly transformed under your ministrations into a greyish mud, that no addition of oil or any of our modern synthetic mediums could render luminous.



Below is a photo of the worktable with an array of mineral specimens in the foreground, and with bowls for washing the crushed stone to the rear:


Below is another shot showing the right side of the worktable. At the lower left of the table, you see warm gold and red chunks of Ochre, a mixture of Iron oxides that is often found in sandy clay strata.


Here is a close-up of the Ochre:


Above the Ochre, you can just make out a glowing green powder in a group of tiny jars.

This is powdered Malachite, found in Nature as a mixture of Copper and calcium carbonates, and here shown with the impurities removed.
To the immediate right of the Malachite, you see a glistening chunk of purplish-red Cinnabar, mercury sulfide.

When this has been cleansed of its impurities and 'locked up' by means of the self-same casein bath used to wash it, you will have the warmest and most radiant reds [ and oranges, depending upon the particle size ] that anyone has ever laid eyes upon.

Here is a close-up of the Cinnabar:


To the right of the Ochre and Malachite, you see a shiny yellow material with glassy orange-red streaks running through it. This is Realgar,arsenic sulfide, affording us some of the most brilliant yellows and oranges on our Natural palette.

Here is a close-up of the Realgar:


Though it has proven to be a fugitive pigment in the hands of some painters, Michael's process of washing the crushed mineral with casein is once again the Key to 'locking up' the colour and securing it for the long term.

Just above the Realgar you see a couple of pieces of Orpiment, yet another form of arsenic sulfide and, as you can see, it is a brilliant golden yellow pigment.

Here is a close-up of the orpiment:


Just above the Orpiment you see a few pieces of Stibnite, antimony sulfide. Stibnite gives us a deep glossy black.

Here is a close-up of the Stibnite:


Above and to the right of the Stibnite, you see a piece of Galena, lead sulfide, another glossy grey-black pigment and source for the original lead pencils ( Graphite does look a bit like Galena ).

Here is a close-up of the Galena:


I am not sure just what the rocks to the right and just below the Galena are - Quartz and Ochre, at a guess.

Here's a close-up, maybe you will be able to identify it:


Just below this box you see a few crystals of Pyrites, iron disulphide, also known as Fool's Gold.

Used in a more coarsely ground form, the shiny golden color remains intact for purposes of painting.

Here is a close-up of the Pyrites:


Immediately below the Pyrites are some crystals of Lapis Lazuli, also known as Ultramarine, sodium sulfosilicate, and the source of the most profound blue on the Natural Palette.

Here is a close-up of the Ultramarine:


Here is a shot of the left-hand side of our worktable:


On the lower left, you see a few crystals of Lapis Lazuli embedded in their matrix of Sodalite.

Here is a close-up of the Lapis:


To the right of the topmost piece of Lapis you see what looks like a shard of bright blue glass.

This is a sliver of Egyptian Blue, calcium copper silicate.

Here is a close-up of the Egyptian Blue, also known as Frit:


Just below, and to the right of the Egyptian Blue, are a couple of boxes containing specimens of Azurite, copper carbonate.

When this has been prepared, it gives us a blue very nearly as deep as that of Ultramarine.

Here is a close-up of the Azurite:


To the right of the Azurite, you see a mottled purple chunk of Vivianite, cobalt arsenate.

Here is a close-up of the Vivianite:


And just above the Vivianite are a couple of brilliant green chunks of Malachite, another form of copper carbonate.

Here is a close-up of the Malachite:


In my next entry, we'll see how rough gemstones like the specimens shewn above are turned into pigment.

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Comments {6}

Wentzel Jamnitzer

(no subject)

from: lhasa7
date: Nov. 15th, 2006 10:39 pm (UTC)

Thanks for this, quite genuinely inspiring. My own creativity is in traction from economic folly these days but I hope to get it up and hobbling around soon…

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(no subject)

from: laiadapila
date: Nov. 19th, 2006 06:46 am (UTC)

Utterly fascinating. May I friend you?

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Khem Caigan


from: khem_caigan
date: Nov. 19th, 2006 04:06 pm (UTC)

Glad you enjoyed it - more to follow.
Consider yourself friended.

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(no subject)

from: garan_du
date: Feb. 25th, 2007 03:09 am (UTC)

Khem, you haven't posted to your livejournal in a while (and to be honest I didn't know that you had one until tonight). I have friended you. I do occasionally post updates on the Buczynski biography project to my journal. Nearing 200 pages and over 400 footnotes at this point. Still would love to paw through your box of photos.

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Secret Agent Beach Party

(no subject)

from: pharminatrix
date: Oct. 23rd, 2007 06:54 am (UTC)

Recently been reading anything I can get my hands on regarding pigment origins, history, preparation, and composition. So appropriate to be directed this way just now.

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The Scientifically Rationalist Agnostic Something~

(no subject)

from: kittiethedragon
date: Dec. 9th, 2007 03:12 am (UTC)

*moans* pigment mixing hurt my poor brains–I always dis /something/ wrong. And I always felt bad grinding pretty things to make paint I'd use to make ugly things. *pout*

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