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23rd April  2023

In preparation for my Pigment Making Workshop at Bedgebury Pinetum, I visited the site to learn of its geology, and to collect earth samples. 

My immediate observation was the high concentration of sand in the soil. Sand, although great for conifers, is not ideal for pigment making as the finer you grind quartz (the main component of sand), the more it loses its colour, so I kept looking. I walked further into the Pinetum and hit upon ochre sandstone samples lying on the surface of disturbed soil. This sandstone proved perfect as the rock for my workshop participants to grind and purify into pigment. Still looking, I chanced upon two umber-coloured clays, and picked up some of the pink aggregate laid on the path. This was one of two aggregates I sampled, the other being the green example at the Visitor Centre. 

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Finally, I took a stroll through Cherry Tree Avenue, to see if I could find any cherry tree gum. The sap of prunus trees is a native substitute for gum arabic, which is the binder (paint vehicle) used to make watercolour paint. Gum arabic is the sap from the acacia tree and is harvested mainly in Sudan. Lucky me, the avenue gifted me some sap which I harvested and dried, ready to show at the workshop.

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All found at Bedgebury Pinetum

The pigments as watercolour paint


On the workshop we ground the sandstone I had collected and purified it - through the levigation process -  into natural pigment. Using three other pigments (the two aggregates and an umber), processed by myself prior to the workshop, we went on to create colour wheels using the pigment as watercolour paint. We created two watercolour recipes; one with a humectant (re-activator) and one without, and had a go using a muller to mull the pigment into the binder to produce a very fine and more opaque paint. 

The workshop engages people with processes we have long forgotten, and encourages environmentally friendly practices, by using natural materials all around us. Community and a sense of place is also celebrated as the use of pigments has provided us with the means of expression since prehistoric times, and collecting such material reconnects us with our rural environment. 


My lovely students, inc. one of my Wilderness Art Collective friends, Flic Flutter!

29th April 2023


A very kind article on my workshop, written by Rachel Graham, editor of Paint & Create, the SAA's membership magazine.

Pigments from Bedgebury Pinetum 
1. Pink 
2. Green Aggregate
3. Umber Clay

I am using Bionic Reading - traditionally used by neurodivergent folk, or more specifically people with ADHD, and those with reading difficulties - created by Swiss typographic designer Renato Casutt. It bolds a small number of letters at the beginning of a word allowing your memory to fill in the rest, creating a more visually stimulating font.

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