Samples & Swatches

Results of my 2013 harvest and 2014 process. I have nearly 2 gallons.


As promised, I am sharing test swatches I made using my home-made pigments. All were created in my studio the summer of 2013, with the exception of the last sample which was made this year. For my base, I made a batch of home-made wallpaper paste using a recipe from Recipes for Art and Craft Materials (see The Best Recipe Book Ever). I made a quarter amount of the recipe and still had plenty. It seemed to take forever to cook as I had to heat slowly and stir constantly, but it was worth the trouble.

I then mixed my pigments into the paste and screen printed them onto paper. I must admit that I wasn't very scientific. I didn't record any data and I didn't measure anything. I do plan to do a controlled data project with varied surfaces and mediums (oil, acrylic, etc.) and will share the process when it is done.

I coloured the paste with oak gall (see Oak Gall Soup), walnut husks (see Walnut Juice), and field dirt (see Mud Pies) to create an image of a bullfrog (See My Prince!



While foraging, I found pieces of an old terra-cotta drainage pipe and pounded some of it into a powder. I realize it isn't exactly a natural product, but the clay was at one time and I count it as a found treasure. Since it had been fired at some point it was a lot of work, but is a beautiful colour. I was afraid it would be too grainy to go through the screen, but it gave me a lovely result. 

Swatch: left is scraped with a card and right is screen printed).  

Terra-cotta clay pipe

Walnut husk and oak gall - both screen printed

Walnut coloring (left) is a lighter value than the Oak gall (right) because I deliberately mixed it that way for the purposes of the print I was working on. I needed a light and a dark to build up layers of value.

Field dirt

Field dirt sample: left is scraped on paper with a plastic card (I reuse plastic cards from junk mail... they are good for something after all!), and right is screen printed.

This sample is from my latest batch that I documented in Walnut Soup:

Walnut 2013/14

When I cook up a batch of dye, I use strips of copy paper to dip in occasionally to see how the colour is coming along. This strip was dipped once, allowed to dry, and then dipped again. There is a dramatic difference. I would have gotten subtler changes if I dipped while still wet.

Temporary labels
The colours are very similar to each other but, for an artist, they provide different shades of brown. Walnut seems a little redder than oak gall and field dirt just slightly bluer, although for this batch, I had deliberately collected the reddest earth I could find (which was easy because Oregon dirt is high in iron oxide due to an abundance of rain).