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
Inky cap mushroom and blue mica
Making color with
Black Calla Lily
Making color from
a Shaggy Mane or Inky Cap Mushroom: Coprinus Comatus
Inky cap mushroom and blueberry
Making color from
Making color from
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