Madison’s Twisted Trees & Twisted Tree Swatches

When I make a new paint, I like to try it out on something in a monochrome painting. So I started making Twisted Tree Swatches. It was so much fun to create these twisted trees that I began a series. The first and second ones are done, and I’m sure there will be many more to follow.


First, by doing a twisted tree with with each paint individually, it lets me easily compare it to others in how it moves on the paper. Does it build, or is the character mostly sheer? Can I lift it easily or does it stain the paper? What about thin lines? Can I move the paint and draw it out into very fine lines?

All of the paints have their own personalities. When I do a twisted tree I use the same sort of strokes, and some of them work well and some don’t so much.

Second, I like doing a painting that starts as a complete unknown. When I begin a Twisted Tree, I have no idea what it will look like. Once I get the basic structure of it down, then I begin to have a more clear image in my mind. It’s fun. They’re totally fantasy and some turn out to be very strange.

I like strange.

Twisted Tree Series


Twisted Tree No. 2, "4 of Wands". This is one of the cards I'm painting for a tarot deck. It'll be a very long time before I get them all done. 5 x 7" on handmade paper, all Ozark pigments. Not for sale. An original painting by Madison Woods.
Twisted Tree No. 2, “4 of Wands”. This is one of the cards I’m painting for a tarot deck. It’ll be a very long time before I get them all done.
5 x 7″ on handmade paper, all Ozark pigments. Not for sale.



Twisted Tree Swatches

Soul of the Ozarks Collection No. 4 (6 colors) These are all for sale. Each card is roughly 4 x 6″. Listed at Etsy as I get time. If you don’t see it there, please contact me to inquire about availability.



“Soul of the Ozarks” Collection No. 4 – Wild Ozark Paleo Paints

Collection No. 4 of the Soul of the Ozarks series of Wild Ozark Paleo Paints

Introducing the latest collection in my Soul of the Ozark series of handmade watercolors: Collection No. 4 … SOLD OUT.

The paint colors in my Soul of the Ozarks Collection No. 4

Whole Purple Sandstone (textured)

All of the ‘purple’ colors I’m making are sourced from a single large rock that I found on our county road after the grader passed over it with his blades. It cracked open the rock to reveal an incredible purplish color. Unfortunately, it doesn’t translate so directly to paint. The paint is more of a brown, with some purplish undertones. The whole purple sandstone paint has a bit of texture. These grits can be dusted off of the dried painting if you like. The color will remain behind.

Whole Purple Gouache (textured)

When I create a paint from a pigment-rich ochre, it leaves a lot of color on the plate once I’m finished scraping it off to put in pans. To avoid wasting the color I like to add some pure powdered limestone to the plate. It creates a lighter version of the same color, with more opacity and a different effect to the paint.

Whole Yellow Sandstone (textured)

This one also has texture. All of the ‘whole’ stone colors do. The yellow sandstone is an incredibly rich color that can achieve some depth of color if you layer the paint or apply with less water on the brush. The yellow sandstone yields a clean yellow color. It’s one of my favorites!

Whole Yellow Gouache (textured)

This paint is also made from the leftover color on my plate after making the Whole Yellow paint. It gives a very nice antique, not quite white but aged white with a hint of light yellow. You can use the gouaches to build layers to give a third dimension to your works.

Late Summer (smooth, sheer)

This is a light-fast plant pigment made from the red leaves in autumn of the black gum tree. It’s a tree native to the Ozarks and is one of the two sources of plant colors that I’ve found to be light fast. It doesn’t have texture to it and can be used to create a sheer yellow-tan. It does slightly darken with exposure to sunlight.

Allyssa Brown (very textured)

The rock that makes this paint isn’t very common here. Most of the sandstones have a lot of red to them, but this one has less than the others, although the paint still has some reddish-orange tones.

Where to Buy

Not available online. There’s one set left and I’ll have it with me at the markets on Saturday. It can’t be shipped because the ‘Late Summer’ color is soft-set and creeps out of the pan when left tilted (as it probably would be when tossed into a mail truck).

Cost: 6 colors, Gift packaged tin for $55  discounted to $35 SOLD OUT

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Red leaves of black gum (Nyssa sylvatica)

Deep red leaves of the black gum at the end of summer.

Black gum leaves begin turning deep red near the end of summer, sometimes long before any other leaves are starting to think of autumn.

This color is made from the late summer red leaves of black gum (also called black tupelo). It’s a tree native to the Ozarks and one of the few light-fast sources of plant pigments that I’ve found.

Red leaves of black gum, poured into pans and paint swatch painted.

Late Summer Shades

I can actually get three different shades of color from red black gum leaves, depending on when the leaves are gathered and/or how they are treated. The green lake pigment is a very nice shade of green, but it isn’t light fast.

From left to right: green lake pigment, water and ethanol extract, water only extract.
From left to right: green lake pigment, water and ethanol extract, water only extract.

The two brown shades are both light fast, based on my test strips that I hang outside in full sunlight. I leave them out for at least 4 weeks and they get full afternoon direct sunlight.

The green shade was made by precipitating pigments from the water and alcohol extract with alum and calcium carbonate. I love the color, but it doesn’t hold up to the light-fast test. So far it’s doing fine indoors, though.

The center shade was made using a water and alcohol extract, and the right shade was made using only water to extract the color from the leaves.

Red Leaves of Black Gum

The center shade will be included in my Soul of the Ozarks Collection No. 3, the next set of colors to be released which will include 9 colors from earth and plant pigments.

Wild Ozark Paleo Paints, Soul of the Ozarks Collection No. 3
Wild Ozark Paleo Paints, Soul of the Ozarks Collection No. 3

It’ll be to be released on November 23, 2018 at the Holiday Market to be held at the Walton-McBride Studio in Fayetteville, Arkansas. This set will be exclusive to that market until after Dec. 16 and after that I’ll list any sets left at my Etsy shop.

The hours and location for the Holiday Gift Market
Click the image to go to the website:

Making the Colors

gather the red leaves

Depending on when you gather the leaves, it may give you a slightly different shade of color.

Add to a pot of water

If you just use water, a lot of the red will remain in the leaves and not go into the water and will yield a color closer to the right hand image in the photo above.


I boiled the leaves gently. It may yield another shade to extract with alcohol and not boil it at all. I haven’t tried that yet, but it’s on my list of things to do.

The extract of red leaves of black gum trees.
The extract of red leaves of black gum trees.

Strain the water out. I use cheese cloth folded over several times.

I use cheesecloth to filter.
I use cheesecloth to filter.

Add solution of gum arabic. This makes a watery paint that will need to be panned several times as each layer dries. Store your paint in the refrigerator or it will mold and/or ferment. That, too, might yield a different color and is another experiment for the future. I’d leave the leaves in for that one.