WORDS & IMAGES: DORIEKE SCHREURS
When it comes to working with nature’s treasures, everything starts with the way you look at things. Once you open your eyes to the potential of stones, layers of soil, plants, and roots, you will see colour everywhere. Wandering will not be the same anymore and you will begin to come home with beautiful treasures after each walk!
Working with natural capital is a learning process. But experimenting with and discovering what works and what doesn't work is part of the fun! With inorganic pigments, I start by roughly grinding the raw material, sifting it, and grinding it again (and again) until the material is as finely ground as possible. I really love this process because it's a way for me to physically work with nature and to truly engage with my materials. Watching it change within my hands is a very humbling and meditative process.
Organic pigments are a different story as there are not many that can be extracted from plants or flowers although I have learned that both madder and woad can. I especially like to use these pigments to make tempera paint because it is biodegradable. To make this paint, mix the pigments with water to create a paste before stirring in a mixture of egg yolk, linseed oil and water. Mix until smooth.
The colours that come from nature are beautiful as they are, but when you treat them differently, the possibilities are almost endless. The reaction of each pigment to heat or acid is almost a miracle to see. You might know in theory that soils or stones with a lot of iron oxide will turn more red when exposed to high temperatures or that a pigment will react when you change its pH level— but seeing it happen is still kind of magic to me!
In the image above, you can see how the same ten pigments transform with temperature. The first row shows the original pigments, the second when the pigments are heated to 850 degrees Celsius, and the third when the pigments are heated to 1150 degrees Celsius. It really is a kind of magic!
With so many different treasures, so many shades and hues, it is not difficult to make art that shows the beauty of nature! Art that is and always will be part of nature. Art that leaves me humbled and in awe...