Wild Waterfall Slate

The wild waterfall slate lives near our little waterfall that spills out onto the driveway.
The wild waterfall slate lives near our little waterfall that spills out onto the driveway.

Making paint from waterfall slate

Slate isn’t the easiest rock to grind up. The first time I made paint, I gathered a few rocks from here and there to see what I would get. This rock lives near the waterfall and because of the various hues of colors I saw in it, became one of my first few sets of paints. I called it “Waterfall Shale”. I think it’s really slate, though.

I don’t really know which one it is. Maybe if the state geologists come back out here to do more looking around, I’ll remember to ask! The previous pieces I used didn’t have the gorgeous red layers in it though. I’m pretty sure this is going to affect the color. The next paint I make with this one will get a variation on the name. I’ll call it “Wild Waterfall Slate”.

Now that I’ve had a little time to learn better technique, I want to try it again. Check back later to see what became of that beautiful slice of rock. Hopefully it transformed into an equally beautiful handmade watercolor paint!

Slate or Shale?

They’re both the same sort of rock, but slate has been under compression longer and is harder. Since the rocks I found are very hard to grind, and they don’t crumble easily (except for the very thin slices) I’m calling them slate.

A Paint-Making Experiment with Murdoch’s Mystery Rock

A thoughtful person by the last name of Murdoch, who happens also to know a bit of geology, enjoyed my display over at Kingston Square Arts, bought a print, and then came back and left me a box of rocks. And today I embarked on a paint-making experiment with one of those rocks.

It is so awesome to me that people bring me rocks, because that means when they see a colorful rock somewhere, they remember the work I’m doing with them and they want to help. I love it. Since I didn’t ask permission, I won’t use his full name in this post, but usually when someone gifts me a rock, I try to use part of their name in the name of the paint when I’m done.

There were two bags full of nice large rocks. The first bag contained a tricolor sandstone looking rock from just west of Huntsville, Arkansas. So still an Ozark pigment. The second bag are some other interesting rocks from Texas. My friend Michele and I gathered some rocks the last time I was in Texas visiting her, too. So I have enough now to make a Texas collection. Since my husband is from south Texas, it’s a fitting first ‘other’ place I’ll feature.

The tricolor mystery rock

The Murdoch rock and the three shades of color.
The Murdoch rock and the three shades of color.

What’s so mysterious?

When I grind up a large rock, I have enough pigment to do some experimenting with. So I mixed all the powder in water and let it settle. Immediately after mixing it up good, I poured all the colored water into other jars and saved the sand that settled quickly. That’s what is in the jars to the far right in the photo above.

The first mysterious thing was how little color was left in that sand! Usually it’s pretty much the same color as the water. That part is what I call the ‘heavies’, because it drops out first.

So I let the water settle a couple of hours and then poured off the still densely colored water into more jars. What had settled were the particles lighter in weight than the first sands and I kept that in a smaller jar and put it in the dehydrator to evaporate the water from it. This part is what I call the ‘middles’. These weren’t mysterious. They looked about like all the other middles do.

The ‘lights’, the parts that stay suspended longest, are the other mysterious thing about this rock. Usually they’ll settle overnight, or at most, in a day or two. These showed no signs at all of settling. It must be a very fine clay. If I can get them to settle, I’ll bet it makes a very smooth paint.

Making the suspended particles settle

One of my first jobs in the science field was in a water quality laboratory at a municipal water plant in Houma, Louisiana. One of the tests we did is called a ‘jar test’. The purpose is to see how much chemical is needed to cause the suspended solids in water to ‘flocculate’. When you floc the water, the suspended solids clump together and become heavier than the water.

Then the solids settle to the bottom and the clear water can be poured or siphoned off. Or as was the case in the water plant, the sludge is filtered out in giant sand filters. The sludge is then disposed of. In this case, the sludge is what I want to keep!

A Paint-Making Experiment & a little chemistry

Yesterday’s paint making experiment was with a using charred bone to make black paint. Today’s is on how to make the suspended particles of clay settle out of the water.

I decided to try alum (aluminum sulfate) to see if it would cause the clay particles to settle. The way this works (without going into balancing equations and all that kind of chemistry stuff, which I’d have to learn all over again to explain) is that the alum has loose protons, which are positive charges. The clay particles have loose electrons, which are negative charges.

When the alum dissolves into the water with the clay all floating around in it, the two opposite charges attract each other and make bigger particles than either of them alone. And so they’re heavy enough to sink.

To make it work a little faster, I added the alum to warm water before putting that into the colored wash water I got from the rock.

Paint Making Experiment
I used 1/2 tsp of grocery store alum in 1 cup of warm water, then added it to the 4 cups of clay-colored water. Within a few minutes, I could see the clear water level at the top, another layer of flux, and the bottom layer of still suspended particles.
It's working! The suspended clay is beginning to settle. Clear water is gathering at the top.
30 minutes later: It’s working! The suspended clay is beginning to settle. Clear water is gathering at the top.

The waiting part of a paint-making experiment

So now I’m still waiting. Once all the settling stops, if it’s not complete, I’ll add another cup of warm alum water and let it start again. As it settles and the band of clear water forms at the top, I siphon that off and throw it out. Eventually I should have a good layer of clay at the bottom to work with.

Then I’ll put it into small jars and dehydrate the rest of the water out. Finally, I’ll get to see if it makes a good paint. I’ll let you know how my paint-making experiment turns out with an update here!

Madison Woods is an author, artist, and Paleo Paint maker living
with her husband in northwest Arkansas far off the beaten path. She uses paint made from rocks, and mostly Ozark pigments to create her paintings.

Contact Info:
Email: [email protected]
Instagram: @wildozark
Facebook: @wildozark

Use the buttons below if you’d like to see the kinds of things I’ve painted with my Paleo Paints. Raptors are my favorite subject to paint, so I’ve started a project to do a portrait or three of each of the species known to visit or make homes in the Ozarks.

Bone Black

Bone Black Swatch from Wild Ozark Paleo Paints.

I made bone black, from a cow vertebra that I charred inside a small tin inside the wood stove. Previously I’d used charred wood from hickory and oak. It has been a difficult paint to re-wet and it never reached the depth of black I wanted. It was also grainier than I liked. The charred bone worked great!

A historical color, the blackest of blacks

Bone black has been a thing since the very early history of mankind. Charcoal from wood has always been more convenient and served well enough for most needs. But like me, someone somewhere must have need a deeper black than they could get from charred wood. Here’s a link to a little more info about that from Pigments Through the Ages website.http://www.webexhibits.org/pigments/indiv/recipe/boneblack.html

I’m not sure what that last line in the 19th century recipe means, but I may need to rinse the pigment before making the paint. We’ll see what happens. I didn’t find that link until writing this post, and I had already made the paint before that. Maybe for the next batch I’ll try it.

The process for making bone black

First I broke the bone into small enough pieces to fit inside the tin. The ashes from yesterday’s fire still occupied the stove. Too much air causes the bone to burn rather than char. Burying it under ashes inside the tin helps with that. Then I built the fire over it and let it burn down.

Charred bone for bone black handmade watercolor Paleo Paint. Fresh out of the wood stove. The bones were cleaned and thoroughly dry before charring.
Fresh out of the wood stove. The bones were cleaned and thoroughly dry before charring.

The charred bones were a lot lighter and easier to break down in the mortar than they were before. The bones were really difficult to break into small enough pieces to fit inside the tin. But afterward, the crushing was a breeze.

It’s still a very messy color to make. The powder floats into the air just as much as the charred wood does, so wear a dust mask if you make this. Or have a fan blowing the dust away from you. Just don’t put the fan too close, or you’ll blow your pigment out of the screen.

Once I had it crushed as fine as I could do with the mortar and pestle, I sifted the powder through a 200-mesh screen.

I sifted all I could through the screen, and put the difficult bits back into the mortar. Then and repeated the sifting process. After that was done, I put the more difficult bits into a small jar and added enough of the watercolor media to cover it plus some. I’ll strain that later and use the fluid to either make a sheer black or add it to the next fine sifted powder on the mulling board to see if it intensifies the black any.

The paint

Bone black on the mulling board. Such a nice smooth black!
Bone black on the mulling board. Such a nice smooth black!
Making black is always messy business. This one is worth it, though.

Once it dried, it doesn’t ‘smear’ when I rub on it – which is a good thing! It is a flat black, not glossy, but it’s exactly what I need to finish up my red-shouldered hawk painting.

Madison Woods is an author, artist, and Paleo Paint maker living
with her husband in northwest Arkansas far off the beaten path. She uses paint made from rocks, and mostly Ozark pigments to create her paintings.

Contact Info:
Email: [email protected]
Instagram: @wildozark
Facebook: @wildozark

Pink Tequila

Pink Tequila comes from a pink sandstone, but the resulting paint or pigment color isn’t pink at all. Or at least, not very much. It’s closer to orange, but there is a slight pink tinge to the orange.

This one, like so many others have the past year, surprised me. As a stone, it looks quite pink.

Found this pink sandstone on the driveway during my morning critter feeding rounds. There’s always a new rock to find on the driveway, even in the same place I walked the day before. The rocks grow overnight like mushrooms 🙂

But once I had it ground up and the pigment mounded on the mulling board, there wasn’t a grain of pink in sight.

What happened to the pink?? Once ground up it was a gorgeous hue of orange.
What happened to the pink?? Once ground up this pink stone became a gorgeous hue of orange.

The Swatch

Since I only picked up that one small rock, I didn’t get much paint from it. I got enough to make several mini cubes. This one is in the new sets that I’ll have with me at the end of the month at the South x Southeast Art Tour.

The color is a few shades more orange than the yellow of Cromwell’s Sunrise, and it’s a gorgeous color. I named it the first thing that came to mind: Pink Tequila. And no. I don’t know if there is really such a thing as pink tequila. If there isn’t, I think there ought to be.

Pink Tequila - a warm shade of orange with just a hint of pink. From a pink sandstone, whole stone.
Pink Tequila – a warm shade of orange with just a hint of pink. From a pink sandstone, whole stone.

These will go on sale first at the South x Southeast Art Tour, where I’ll be set up with the Wild Ozark booth at Terra Studios. It’s March 30-31. After that, I’ll upload any of them left to my online shop and the Etsy shop.

The bottom one is the one I’ve been using, so it’s not for sale, obviously. The trays are made from clay that I bisque fired in the wood-stove. No plastic. The colors vary from black, to gray, to almost white.

Madison Woods is an author, artist, and Paleo Paint maker living
with her husband in northwest Arkansas far off the beaten path. She uses paint made from rocks, and mostly Ozark pigments to create her paintings.

Contact Info:
Email: [email protected]
Instagram: @wildozark
Facebook: @wildozark

Cromwell’s Sunrise

Cromwell’s Sunrise is a warm golden yellow Wild Ozark Paleo Paint made from a stone of northwest Arkansas. This color began with a rock gifted to me by another northwest Arkansas artist. He saw it while out hiking and thought I might like to try making a paint from it.

The rock that makes Paleo Paint color "Cromwell's Sunrise"
The Sandstone that makes “Cromwell’s Sunrise”

The Swatch

I don’t have any sources here to make this beautiful color, so I was pretty happy to get that rock. It’s also from the Ozarks, just not from right here at Wild Ozark.

"Cromwell's Sunrise", a Wild Ozark Paleo Paint color.
What an incredible color that rock made!

Since I only tried a small piece of it to test it out, I didn’t make very much paint from the first batch. The few that I got are included in a set of Paleo Mini’s. I’ll have these with me at the South x Southeast Art Tour, where I’ll be set up with the Wild Ozark booth at Terra Studios. It’s March 30-31. After that, I’ll upload any of them left to my online shop and the Etsy shop.

The bottom one is the one I’ve been using, so it’s not for sale, obviously. The trays are made from clay that I bisque fired in the wood-stove. No plastic. The colors vary from black, to gray, to almost white.

Madison Woods is an author, artist, and Paleo Paint maker living
with her husband in northwest Arkansas far off the beaten path. She uses paint made from rocks, and mostly Ozark pigments to create her paintings.

Contact Info:
Email: [email protected]
Instagram: @wildozark
Facebook: @wildozark

Black. The Messiest Color Start to Finish.

Making black paint from wood char.

Sometimes I’m overzealous with the black. More honestly put, I am almost always too generous with the black. I put more on than I need and so end up taking a lot of it right back off.

Why I love Black

And that highlights one of the great things about my black handmade watercolor paint. It comes back off.

Not all of the colors will do that. Some of them stain the paper, so even if I remove the paint there will still be the stain.

Another nice thing about this black is that it can be manipulated on the paper. I can pull out very thin lines with a lot of control in placement.

It will bleed into or blend with nearby colors, though, so you still have to use caution if that effect isn’t your intent.

The other thing I love about the color black is its metaphysical properties.

I make the black from wood char, and this year I’m going to make a special batch of black paint from the wood that I burn on Mid-winter’s Day. I’ll call it ‘Winter Solstice’. I may also burn some bones to make Bone Black.

The black made from wood char will look just like the other blacks that I make, though, so the only difference will be the metaphysical. I’m not sure if there’s going to be a difference in the bone black, because I’ve never made that one before. So we’ll see.

It’s the Hardest to Make

Sum total effort expended, I have to say this color wins hands down. With the other colors, it all starts by picking up a rock. And yes, crushing rocks is hard work.

But it doesn’t compare to procuring firewood. Even though I’m not the one doing the hardest of the labors involved with bringing wood to the wood-stove, the part I play is hard enough. If I buy a load of firewood I still have to load and then unload the truck. But when we’re cutting our own firewood, I pick up the logs as Rob splits them, load and unload the tractor bucket.

I suppose it would a LOT less effort if I only burned wood to make this paint, though. Instead I am just trying to use a by product of something else so that the heat produced isn’t wasted.

It’s a Mess to Make

It starts with a tree, in this case. You can also make black from charred bone but I haven’t done that yet.

So the mess begins with sweating. It’s warming work to do my little part of getting the firewood into our house.

But the actual paint-making begins with a lump of charred wood. The charred part needs to be thoroughly charred, with no un-burnt  wood and not so burned that it is only ash.

Some good chunks of char that I'll use to make black paint.
Some good chunks of char that I’ll use to make black paint.

Carbon black gets everywhere. It goes into the air if you grind it, so it’s a good idea to wear a dust mask when doing that. This time I used my blender to grind it so having a lid helped a lot. But when I poured the powder into a jar, fine clouds of black floated into the air.

If you spill any of it, it seems to get on everything and spread everywhere.

Black=Carbon=Life

Carbon is the basis for the color black, and while it isn’t the most abundant element in the universe or even the earth, it is a very abundant source of pigment for me.

The very definition of ‘life’ is often dependent on whether or not carbon is present. It is what makes ‘organic’ organic. The reason is because carbon is the basic building block for all things alive or once-living.

To read my musings on the philosophical/metaphysical aspect, read my post at the Wild Ozark blog. In summary, to me, black represents the very basic component of all that is life. The struggle to maintain the balance between black and white is what life is all about.

The Making of Black

Mulling black paint from wood char.
Ground up wood char on the mulling board, with media. Ready to make into paint.

So this was the way I made black the first time. It didn’t work very well. The ground up char doesn’t want to mull into the media the way other rock and clay powders do.

Now instead of trying to mull it, I put some of the powder into a jar and just shake it every day to transfer the color into the media. When the heavier particles sink to the bottom I keep the liquidy part and just let it evaporate out of my pans and refill the pans as often as it takes to get them full.

The key is to get enough of the powder to stain the liquid media so that the resulting paint is dark enough to be called black.

Finished black paint.
Finished black paint from the previous time I made it.

In the photo at the top of this page, you can see the little tray I’m using. I want to see if it’ll turn out dry cubes intact. If it does, I can do away with some of the plastic pans and just put these paint cubes into my tins without them.

I’ll update this post later to let you know how that worked.

Have a wonderful solstice, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year! I’ll be at the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market this weekend and next, and most Saturdays during the winter market hours. You can check my schedule to make sure I’m there if you want at wildozark.com/schedule/.

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: https://communitycreativecenter.org/calling-all-artists-holiday-gift-market/

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.

What are Paleo Paints?

The Paleo Paints

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.

Paleo Paint Workshops

Do you prefer hands-on learning? I offer workshops to share the information I’ve learned so far. Most are single day workshops, but some of the more advanced ones will meet more than once because the process can’t be finished in one day.

Where to Find my Paleo Paints?

They’re at Etsy! Whenever they’re ready to ship, I list them on Etsy. The sets available can change quickly, though, so check back often.

You can also see them (and try them out!) in person on Sundays when I’m at the Kingston Square Arts. Check my schedule to see when and where I’ll be.

I’ll also try to keep them stocked at Kingston Square Arts in Kingston, Arkansas. There’s a corner of the gallery back by the register that belongs to Wild Ozark. Lots of excellent pottery and art in there, so it’s worth a stop if you’re going through town on the way to your outings on the Buffalo!

Original Works?

At this time, only a few of my original works are for sale. I have several of the smaller twisted trees still, the 8 x 10 Twisted Tree No. 1, and 8 x 10 Queen of Cups. Fox No. 1 (Little Rascal) is for sale.

Madison Woods is an author, artist, and Paleo Paint maker living
with her husband in northwest Arkansas far off the beaten path. She uses Ozark pigments to create her paintings.

Contact Info:
Email: [email protected]
Instagram: @wildozark
Facebook: @wildozark

The Birds of Prey are generally not for sale at this time. I sold all of the kestrels before I realized I’d be working on a complete collection of them, but now I’d like to keep the entire collection intact until I’m finished with it. However…. if either of the goshawks make it into Watercolors USA, they’ll be for sale during the exhibition.

Anything not a bird of prey is generally for sale. Contact me if you see something you want.

Prints, Stationery

I have a lot of derivative products like prints, stickers, note cards! Those are all at the Etsy shop, KSA gallery, and farmers market too.

E-commerce options:
Etsy
Wild Ozark shop

About The Artist

I live in northwest Arkansas with my husband on 160 acres far from paved highways. This gives me a front-seat ride with nature and is a huge influence on my life and work.

When I’m not painting or writing, I’m probably smashing rocks or out soaking up some nature and gathering photographs. I use the earth around me to create the paints for my works. My focus is on the Ozark pigments, but I will on some occasions use sources purchased, donated (people send me rocks!), or collected during travels. I love to capture the essence, the very soul of a place, with its earthy colors.

In direct contrast to that, my favorite subjects are creatures of the air. Raptors fascinate me because they’re gorgeous, yet deadly. I believe I like to paint them not only because they’re challenging, but also because they’re a dynamic opposite of the earth from which my paints are made.

When I choose a subject I look for flow of movement, intended movement, or an expression in the eyes that I want to capture.

Additionally, since most of the colors I use are created from wild-crafted rocks here in the Ozarks, I look for subjects with colors I can represent with the earthy colors in my palette.

I’m self-taught and only use the paints I make for paintings. I also use Prismacolor pencils for drawings.

News Coverage/Accomplishments/Honors/Awards

010819- Interviewed by KUAF about the Ozark pigments and my art

011319- Juried into Artists of Northwest Arkansas Annual Member’s Show 2019 (Fox No. 1)

1-29-19- Works accepted to the Arkansas Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ 2019-2020 Artists Registry. They’ll be uploaded to the website (acnmwa.org) by February 4, 2019. (not sure which works yet, will update after Feb. 4.)

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