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 the WildOzark online shop whenever any are available.

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 try to keep them stocked at Kingston Square Arts in Kingston, Arkansas, but availability is usually limited. I ordinarily only make more paint when I need more for my paintings. 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?

Some of my originals are for sale. You can see all that I’ve finished so far at my Paleo Paints page: www.PaleoPaints.com.

If you see one you’re interested in, contact me to inquire.

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: Madison@wildozark.com
Instagram: @wildozark
Facebook: @wildozark

Prints, Stationery

I have a lot of derivative products like prints, stickers, note cards! Those are all at the KSA gallery, and when I do events I bring some with me.

E-commerce options:

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.

Timeline: Paintings, Career Benchmarks, Awards and Accomplishments

  • 2018 July – began making paint, began painting
    • July – completed Kestrel No. 1, Kestrel No. 2
    • August- completed Kestrel No. 3
    • Sept- Pelican No. 1, Crow No. 1
    • Oct- Fox No. 1
    • Dec- Twisted Tree No. 1
  • 2019 Jan- Goshawk No. 1, Goshawk No. 2 “Rhapsody”


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

Collection No. 5, Soul of the Ozarks Series

Collection No. 5 is SOLD OUT.

Collection No. 5

Instead of nine fabulous shades, this one has four. Collection No. 5 has ‘Ancient White’, which is not included in the previous collection, although it is included in the Collection No. 3.

Four colors are more than enough to make incredible art, though.  A smaller set is a more affordable entry point for artists new to the handmade watercolor experience, so I try to alternate between larger and smaller collections in my releases.

This Twisted Tree uses only a single color:

From Collection No. 5 and 4. The Whole Yellow Twisted Tree paint swatch in progress on my Paleo Go prototype.

“Whole Yellow” is included in Collection No. 4 and Collection No. 5 and I’ll have more of this color in future collections.

The Color Stories

Purple Heavies (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. The paint is more of a brown, with some purplish undertones. The Purple Heavies 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.

Purple Heavies is a bit of a challenge because it does stain the paper and doesn’t re position well. But wow it is a rich pigment! If you put it down somewhere mistakenly, best find a way to incorporate.

Purple Heavies Gouache (lightly 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. It’s hard to achieve much shading but it’s great for things you don’t want to darken too much.

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! Builds, lifts, and repositions nicely.

Ancient White

This is more than ‘antique’ white. It’s ancient because the color comes from limestone found in Felkins creek in Madison county, right near Wild Ozark. It’s likely the large chunk I found once was a part of our ancient sea corals.

Collection No. 4

One of the colors in this collection is taking longer to dry and solidify than I expected, so it’s not yet ready to ship. I do have it with me when I go to markets, though, and if I don’t get snowed in this weekend it’ll be with me at the Fayetteville (indoor) Farmer’s market.

Collection No. 3 (nine colors)

This one is on display and for sale at the Walton Arts Center until Dec. 16. After that, if any are left, I’ll list it to Etsy.

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.