Collecting my Own Natural Materials: Making Painting and Drawing tools and Paints

I was incredibly inspired by the “Materiality of Drawing” session within the “Drawing as Experience” field module and was highly drawn to the work of Stuart Cairns who makes drawing tools from found objects and draws them. In this session, we started experimenting with making our own tools and using them to make marks. I have taken inspiration from this into my subject module and I have started to make tools from natural objects and bound them together with string. I have experimented with a vast variety of methods of connecting my work to nature and place but hadn’t thought about the fact that I could actually make the tools I draw or paint with from nature. After discussing this idea with my tutor, it was agreed that I should pursue this further and document the collecting of the objects and the making process, I decided to do this through video. For me, the process of collecting, being amongst nature and making tools both out in the environment and back inside is very therapeutic and I have accompanied the documentation with a sound track to reflect that.

This video portrays me collecting and making my tools in the surroundings of the Brecon Beacons National Park. I intend to use these tools to draw/paint a landscape piece of the Beacons with the marks the tools make embedded in the image. The image will have a deeper connection to the specific place, nature and environment because it was produced with tools made from natural objects collected in the place. I will document the process of creating the piece with the tools also.

I am looking forward to using these tools to make a piece and to see what kind of marks are made and outcome is produced. Thinking towards final pieces for this module, I think a physical connection with art and nature is the stronger one and maybe I could create an outcome or series of outcomes where nature is used in the work, and the tools used to create the work are also natural. This is just an initial Idea at the moment. I definitely want to make more of a range of tools and collect more materials to do so. I also think the string makes the tools look less natural and so when I make more I will bind them with Grasses.

Making Paints from Natural Materials

I decided I would have a go at making my own paints – made from the pigments of natural materials. I went for a walk around the landscape of Brecon and collected a variety of natural materials to make paint with. These materials included: Leaves, small stones, different coloured flowers, soil etc. I did some research into potential ways of producing my own paints and came across egg tempera. I decided to experiment with making egg tempera paints from natural materials. I ground up the natural materials using a pestle and mortar then added egg white or yolk or both. I painted these outcomes onto paper and then added lemon juice which changed the colours and sometimes lightened the paints. Bicarbonate of Soda was also added which thickened and darkened the paints. This Process has quite an obvious connection between art and nature and is definitely more successful than mixing nature into acrylic plasticy paint. This allows the natural materials to make the artwork.

However, the range of colours that I have managed to create are mostly different shades of greens, browns and greys. I did produce a light blue sort of colour using blue bells and a more reddish brown using redder soils also. I experimented with pink petals and yellow petals etc. but all of these lost their visual colour and turned into greens and browns as well. Even though the colour palette may be limited, the colours are from nature and so I shouldn’t be trying to achieve colours you can use when painting with synthetic paints.

I definitely think that these natural pigment paints create a very strong connection between the art world and the natural world. I think having the formula used to create each colour is quite interesting and if displayed with a painting would definitely connect the viewer with nature and encourage them to consider it a lot more deeply. I think it is highly fascinating that I have managed to make paints from natural materials and I look forward to attempting to paint imagery with them and experiment with them further. I will experiment with painting the landscapes that I formulated from the shape of twigs.