What are Paleo Paints?

header for paleo paints blog post.

My husband once said my handmade paints reminded him of how the cave men made their paints for the cave drawings. And he was right! And so we called them Paleo Paints.

I make them by crushing rocks, clay, charred wood, and extract certain leaves to create pigments which are then added to a binder to make paint.

The type of binder used determines what kind of paint it is: gum Arabic for watercolors, linseed oil for oil paints, and egg yolks for tempera. Other binders can be used to serve the same purposes, but these are the three most people are familiar with.

I crush the rocks by hand with a mortar and pestle. But before that, I collect the rocks or herbs, or clay or char.

 

Some typical rocks that look like good pigment rocks. I'll pick out the one between the two larger ones.
Some typical rocks that look like good pigment rocks. I’ll pick out the one between the two larger ones.

When I see a rock that looks like it’ll make good pigment, sometimes I’ll crush a part of it on a larger rock out in the field to see what I might expect from it.

A tested rock. Excellent source of pigment for Paleo Paints!
A tested rock. Excellent source of pigment for Paleo Paints!

You’ll often find me with bulging pockets because I’ve seen something wonderful that needed to be made into paint and didn’t go out prepared to carry more than a handful home.

Crushed red sandstone that I'll use as a pigment for my Paleo Paints.
Crushed red sandstone that I’ll use as a pigment for my Paleo Paints.

The colors in my palettes are earthy, and rich with the essence of place. Each color carries with it a story that tells the origins of earth’s history for that particular spot where it lived.

Some of the colors from my first set of handmade watercolor paints.
Some of the colors from my first set of handmade watercolor paints.

By working with these materials to make paint, I feel a sense of collaboration and partnership – a harmony I have no other way to translate other than by making art.

I hope it brings the sacred tunes of ancient and ever-adapting life to your soul when you work with them, too.

Where to Find my Paleo Paints?

Right now I’m working on making enough of them to offer at my Etsy shop. I’ve sold all of the sets I’ve made already, but I’m working on more. When they’re done (probably mid-December) I’ll put them online. I have 5 sets of Collection No. 3 that are reserved for an event from Nov. 23 – Dec. 16 (Walton Arts Center Holiday Market). Once that event is over, if there are any left, I’ll add them to the shop as well.

So far, I’ve sold most of the original paintings I’ve done using them, but I have a lot of derivative products like prints, stickers, note cards! Those are all at the Etsy shop, too. The shop is still under construction, but there are some stickers listed now.

Links

Here’s my Etsy link: www.etsy.com/shop/wildozark

Here’s where you can see the paintings I’ve done so far: www.paleopaints.com/paintings/

Follow me on Instagram to stay current with what I’m doing: www.instagram.com/wildozark

Plant Pigments – Experimenting and Searching for Green

Generally I don’t use the plant pigments because they’re fugitive, meaning they fade over time. Sometimes they completely disappear.

However, I’ve found two sources that actually intensify with exposure to light (full sunshine) and so I am experimenting with extracting the pigments from them.

The Sources of my Plant Pigments

Sassafras makes a nice yellow and orange, whereas Black Gum makes tan and green.

The differences in the colors produced from one plant are due to a few different things.

First, the time of year matters. If I gather leaves early in the season, sassafras gives me yellow. If I gather the autumn leaves, I get the orange. These two colors are sheer in nature but can become quite bright with UV exposure.

If I make lake pigments by adding an alum solution and following with calcium carbonate to flocculate and collect the precipitating pigment, I get yellow from the autumn leaves of sassafras and a very nice green from the black gum.

Maybe other shades will result from using other solutions in this lake process. I’m only beginning the experimentation. Then I’ll also test the finished paints from this way of getting the colors to make sure that they, also, are light fast and UV safe to use in a painting I don’t want to fade.

Many organic and even metallic inorganic will also oxidize and turn brown. This has been a big problem with any plant pigments I’ve used too, except the sassafras. I’m still testing the green from the black gum to see if it’ll turn brown.

How to Test the Color Stability

I test by leaving half of my test strip outside so that it gets full sunlight exposure and open air for 4 weeks. At the end of the 4 weeks I compare the other half of the strip that has remained inside in the dark to the one that hung outside.

A little bit of change is tolerable, but too much indicates that the painting won’t look the same after a decade or two. Watercolors are fragile colors to begin with and I always frame mine, and recommend buyers to frame theirs, under conservation glass to protect it from UV light, even indoors.

Precipitated Plant Pigments

Here’s what the filter cakes from my lake experiment looks like. I’ll write up a full post about what I did and how it looked throughout the process later.

Plant pigments obtained from precipitating with alum and calcium carbonate.
The yellow lump is from the autumn leaves of sassafras and the green one is from the autumn red leaves of black gum.

Where to find my Paints

I sell my collections at Etsy and through my online shop at Wild Ozark, the main website. Eventually I’ll have raw pigments to sell, too, for those who want to make their own paints of any sort from Wild Ozark colors!

The Great Crash of WildOzark.com

So, you should know that I know just enough to be dangerous with the tech stuff.

Somehow, I’ve crashed WildOzark.com. I’m working to bring it back up, but time is really short right now with War Eagle preparations and I may not have time to dedicate to get it back until after all the festivals are done. We have another one in November.

Just in case you’re wondering if it’ll ever be back online again, well… all I can say is I hope so!

This is a new website. There’s only this one post so far.

That’s all there will be for a while. Except for a few pages I really need to be posted soon, I won’t have time to work on it or add more until after festival season is done (mid-November).

PaleoPaints.com is the future of Wild Ozark, anyway, so I figured I’d just get started on a new website with the new focus. Whenever I can get the old site back up, I’ll let you know!