Shades of Shale

Black shale is a common rock in our creeks and streams. The rocks are brittle and easy to crumble, and make a dark gray rub. A great candidate for making some paint.

And it makes a really buttery textured paint. But my first attempts using this stone for color brought mixed results. Our black shale is oil shale. It’s not oily to the touch, but it had some strange characteristics that proved challenging.

A basket full of black shale, fresh from the creek.
A basket full of black shale, fresh from the creek.

The paint smelled like sulfur and it was hard to wet when it came time to use it. But for a long time it was my closest thing to black, before I found out how to make black from charred things.

But it made a nice shade of brownish-black-gray, and sometimes I needed it.

Recently I decided to try again with the shale now that I’ve got a few new (old) tricks up my sleeve regarding paint-making.

Once the rock was ground to a pigment, I washed it. Washing, or levigation, is an old technique and it has a few different benefits. One is that it removes at least water-soluble impurities. If whatever was making the sulfur smell would go into the water, then it would fix the odor problem, because the water would be discarded.

Making Creek Shale, the color

The color story

So once I made the paint, it was time to try it out. I always make a little swatch of new colors, to see how they look. Again, I decided to use the 12 x 16 watercolor paper for the swatches and experiments, and then put it in my giant journal.

Levigating the shale made a huge difference in quality of the paint! And the lack of odor (so far, at least) is an added bonus. It was always an interesting gray, but the washed pigments gave a paint that is much smoother, easy to wet, and is capable of creating a tremendous range of depth. I can use this one paint for making nearly black to barely gray.

I really like the new and improved features of this paint. Washing the pigment made a huge difference in quality.

Even if it still ends up stinking, this is now one of my most versatile colors I’ll probably include in every palette.

Want to See?

Creek Shale was the second entry in my new journal. I’ll bring it with me on Sundays when I work at Kingston Square Arts, and I’ll probably bring it along at any events I show in. It’s going to be pretty cool as I add more color stories to it. Come out for a ride to Kingston, Arkansas on Sundays and take a look at it one day. I’d love to meet you and talk earth pigments and paints.

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

Pottery Shard

The journal entry for my latest pigment "Pottery Shard".

A few weeks ago during my morning walk, I found an old pottery shard. So I put it in my pocket and finished my walk. It looked like it might make a nice paint, but I debated over whether or not to crush it. The shard, or sherd, as the term is known in archaeological circles, could be an artifact.

An old pottery shard I found in the driveway.
An old pottery shard I found in the driveway.

The land occupied now by Wild Ozark was first settled in the early 1900’s. Before that, Native Americans from the plains used the Ozarks to shelter during winter, along with the buffalo. And before that, Bluff Dwellers lived in the area. I don’t think this shard is that old. But even if it were, it wouldn’t do anything for me sitting on a shelf gathering dust. So I recycled it.

Making Pottery Shard, the color

The pottery shard in process.
Broken and ground, with a sample of it rubbed. Looks like it’ll make a good color!
The pigment on the mulling board with gum Arabic solution.
The pigment on the mulling board with gum Arabic solution.
Paint in the making, on the mulling board.
Paint in the making, on the mulling board.

The color story

So once I made the paint, it was time to try it out. I always make a little swatch of new colors, to see how they look. This time, I decided to use the 12 x 16 watercolor paper I don’t like using for paintings. And then I put it in my giant journal.

What better subject for a test painting with Pottery Shard, than a pottery pot? I'm loving the giant Book of Colors (as opposed to a 'Book of Shadows', which is what the journals are marketed for).
What better subject for a test painting with Pottery Shard, than a pottery pot? I’m loving the giant Book of Colors (as opposed to a ‘Book of Shadows’, which is what the journals are marketed for).

Pottery Shard was the first entry in my new journal. I’ll bring it with me on Sundays when I work at Kingston Square Arts, and I’ll probably bring it along at any events I show in. It’s going to be pretty cool as I add more color stories to it. Come out for a ride to Kingston, Arkansas on Sundays and take a look at it one day. I’d love to meet you and talk earth pigments and paints.

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: Madison@wildozark.com
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/.

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.

Why?

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

"A

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

Stay Updated

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