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Ochre and earth pigments

December sees the end of the term for classes - and for me everything slows down, giving me time to spend time on my own work which provides a great time for a bit of playing around and experimenting. It's also a good time to explore new ideas as well as revisiting old sketchbooks looking for inspiration for the new year.

Ochre sketch book

Digging around in my plan chest I came across some old experiments with earth pigments from Roussillon which were given to me by a friend on her return from a trip to France. I made a little sketch book using egg tempera of the paths that criss-cross the walled garden at West Dean. I thought this little book was lost so I was delighted to come across it again. The discovery of the book reminded me of a quote from John Ruskin which was the original inspiration:

'Give me some mud off a city crossing, some ochre out of a gravel pit, and little whitening, and some coal dust, as I will paint you a luminous picture . . .'

ochre mine

On my travel is Spain in December quite without expectation I came across a deserted ancient ochre mine. It was such a treat to make this discovery especially as I have been considering painting with a very limited palette of just earth pigments for some time. Some of my experiments have been more successful than others - I'm looking forward to spending more time perfecting the painting as well using different paint mediums. I painted this little pea from an old drawing in my sketch book. More to follow . . .

Pea painted with Terre Verte, Umbers and Ochres

Incidentally cannot recommend more highly Victoria Finlay's book 'Colour: Travels through the Paintbox'. It is a wonderful read for anyone interested in the history of pigments. I am forever dipping back into this book having discovered it a number of years ago. Her chapter on Ochre in particular is most fascinating.

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