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Botanical Painting: History & Trees


What do the following items have in common: the Declaration of Independence, Da Vinci’s notebooks, Bach’s musical scores, Rembrandt’s drawings, Shakespeare’s plays, and the Magna Carta?

Do you know why trees are important in making a botanical palette?

Join a workshop in your area to learn how to make your own botanical palette. 

I use a painting method that dates back to Roman Times and the Middle Ages. Sources for natural colorings can be found all over the place. Many may already be in your pantry or fridge. I will share what I have learned in my research and how to turn natural materials such as plants, herbs, fruits, veggies, and spices into archival colors.  You will find resources used in my research, experiments, and videos on how to create your own archival botanical palette. I have learned about a process of working with iron gall inks. Now I use my own recipes in my botanical palettes, which includes the dying and painting of mycelium and other materials I use in my work. I use a method called laking. Most dyes are water soluble. A lake pigment is made when dissolved dye is precipitated onto an inert substrate - often potash or alum, which I do not use because of its toxic nature. The precipitate is then filtered, washed, and ground. In other words, the dye is made into a solution that is made into a solid by binding the pigment to inert substance and allowing it to evaporate. The end of the process is something like a watercolor palette only it's all botanical and 100% natural, which means no chemicals. That is healthier for you, me, and the planet. I use layers of ink to achieve the brilliant and deep colors found in each botanical material. 

Historically: (Source: UK Parliament and The New York Almanack)

Scribes used iron gall ink made from growths on oak trees caused by parasitic wasps. The galls were crushed and mixed with water; honey; sometimes with vitriol—sulphuric acid—gum arabic, which is a binding agent; and iron shavings from the bottom of cauldrons to make blue/black ink. Over time, the ink rusts, so, for example, the writing of the Magna Carta is now brown.

Today, botanical painting methods are used for dying fabrics and other materials. With other advancements, we are able to save on time, costs, and methods of recreating this historical approach to botanical painting. The permanence and water-resistance of the iron and gall-nut formula made it the standard writing ink in Europe for over 1,400 years. 

keep a color journal.jpg
Keep a Color Journal
Inky cap mushroom and blue mica

Inky cap mushroom and blue mica

Making color with
Black Calla Lily
Color Samples
Black Calla Lily
Let petals sit in water for one day and boil for 1 hour on the second day then let the color sit for one day
On the 4th day you will process your color and I will share with you how to do this.
This is your processed color liquor
Making color from
a Shaggy Mane or Inky Cap Mushroom: Coprinus Comatus
This is an inky cap that I foraged for the purpose of making ink
Inky cap mushroom and blueberry

Inky cap mushroom and blueberry

Making color from
Fall Leaves
Try to forage for your materials. You will find a deeper meaning when you find your own color.
The color liquor processed from Fall leaves
Making color from
Even artists such as Van Gogh used oak gall as washes in his paintings
There are different ways of processing color
There are many ways to prepare dyes and use them as watercolors. In my workshops I go over how to process botanical materials into archival and colorfast palettes
Inky cap, blueberry and burning bush
Making color from Burning Bush or Euonymus Alatus.

Inky cap mushroom, blueberry & Burning bush

In my workshops, I share with you how to process botanical materials into dyes or inks using what is called a laking method.  There are many ways to process your material. My workshops include visual aids, directions, and recipes. I will also share a bit of my research regarding medicinal properties, history, and interesting facts about each botanical material we work with in the workshop. You will receive a DIY jar that holds curated materials including mycelium which will be used as an application of materials to the watercolor paper which is also provided and prepared for you. Finally, I will share with you where I learned how to create my botanical palettes as well as a few books I use as a reference guide to this amazing process. I look forward to co-creating bio art with you. 

It's important to note that I forage for all of my own botanical materials, and I will share more on this with you. It is my favorite part of the recipe because it means we get to spend time forest bathing and looking for what nature has provided for us on that day. 

"I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for." - Georgia O'Keeffe

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