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View Full Version : Paintmaking II – Ochres (with Photos!)


Mythrill
07-20-2014, 05:07 PM
Hello, everyone!

I'm pretty sure you remember this thread, originally posted by Damienl: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1351502

We ended up discussing the results of my paintmaking, which can be read here: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1328765

Talking to Damienl's in his thread and visiting a blog, I've learned about refining my earth colors, making the fine particles float and dry to little flakes.

I had a stroke of luck these days. The soil in my state is mostly made of iron oxides, and since people are reforming the park nearby, some workers dug the soil deep.

What I propose here is to document the stages of refining earth pigments – from clumps of earth themselves. I'm entirely sure if the soil I got could be classified as Ochres or Siennas, but considering that the clumps I got were grouped with some hard, black rock, I believe I have Yellow Ochre and Red Ochre.

Here's some Yellow Ochre. It is mixed with umber particles, sand, and vegetable matter.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/20-Jul-2014/96427-Raw_Sienna_or_Yellow_Ochre.jpg

Since the soil this was at has been burnt before, this was close to some red earth as well. Here's a clump.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/20-Jul-2014/96427-Red_Ochre_or_Burnt_Sienna.jpg

It was dark, so I opened the shutter a little more, which made the photo shake. The reddishness is a little hard to see, but it's a brown-orange color.

The battery of my camera is recharging for now. The next step I'll photograph will be the separation of organic matter from the pigment! :)

indraneel
07-21-2014, 06:41 AM
Cool! Will be nice to see the progress.

Mythrill
07-21-2014, 09:10 AM
Cool! Will be nice to see the progress.
Thanks, Indra! :)

The pigment has reached an ugly stage: after allowing the vegetable matter to come up for 12+ hours, we have ugly, dirty water with vegetable matter on the top of the container. Here's how the yellow ochre looks (top view):

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/21-Jul-2014/96427-Ochre_-_settling.jpg

Next step: straining vegetable matter with cotton rags and filtering with water again!

Mythrill
07-21-2014, 02:04 PM
This is how the pigment looks after multiple straining and filtering. You can still see some iron particles (not oxidized) right there.

Since there was a lot of organic matter, much of the pigment was also lost.
This, however, will help keep the pigment lightfast.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/21-Jul-2014/96427-Ochre_-_Washed.jpg

Please note that this is still not what will be used.
The finest particles will be extracted by putting this into a pan and allowing the smallest particles to go up, giving me an aqueous dispersion.

Mythrill
07-22-2014, 04:41 PM
This is the aqueous dispersion. The particles here are very, very fine, so I'll just let them sit. As the water dries, the iron particles sink and the color becomes saturated.


http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/22-Jul-2014/96427-Ochre-_setting.jpg

Gigalot
07-23-2014, 04:53 AM
I grind a Red Ochre, here is a dried pigment I did yesterday. :)

Gigalot
07-23-2014, 05:07 AM
I used a fresh piece of broken brick to grind pigment powder.. This brick has a pleasant orange color, but paint made from it has far different color, deeper and more brown. Good flesh tone! Color swatch:

Mythrill
07-23-2014, 12:15 PM
I used a fresh piece of broken brick to grind pigment powder.. This brick has a pleasant orange color, but paint made from it has far different color, deeper and more brown. Good flesh tone! Color swatch:
Giga, your grinding and your oil paint are very beautiful! And yes, bricks are almost pure hematite, so grinding them will give you nice red ochres. :)

Regarding oils, I've tested it myself and it turns out the same pigment behaves quite differently in oils and acrylics. While ochres tend to look deeper, then often look a bit less chromatic in oils. If you try to use some acrylic emulsion on your pigment, chances are that you'll get a lighter, radiant orange instead – particularly in tints.

You can also test this by mixing water into some your pigment and brushing it against paper or canvas. Can you show what you get?

Mythrill
07-23-2014, 03:09 PM
Now the pigment has settled. I drained most of the water and I'm letting it to dry and crack.

Since I washed the earth too much, I lost the original orange tone and got a light yellow instead – not too different from a yellow ochre. The dark spots you see are actually yellow-brown in real life.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/23-Jul-2014/96427-Ochre_-Purified.jpg

This time around, on the new batch, I'm allowing the iron oxide particles to settle completely and I'm removing the impurities 3 times per day. I also added a small amount of acetic acid to the new batch so the small stones there will corrode faster and I'll get even finer particles and more iron oxide in general.

Mythrill
07-24-2014, 09:22 AM
This is our dried up ochre pigment. Notice that, color-wise, the pigment isn't consistent even with itself: some parts of it will be more orange and yellower, while most of it will be cooler and more brownish.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/24-Jul-2014/96427-Ochre_-_Dried_up.jpg

Mythrill
07-24-2014, 11:36 AM
All right, guys! Here are the test results!

The first wash was done with some pigment and water. This gives an idea of how the pigment behaves overall.

The test was made with some of my pigment and golden regular gel medium (gloss). I tried to load it as much as possible with pigment so that I'd get the most saturated results possible!

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/24-Jul-2014/96427-Yellow_Ochre_-_Acrylics.jpg

The colors, as usual, were a bit distorted when photographing. Lemon Yellow (PY 3), for instance, is much, much brighter than it usually is, and Winsor & Newton's Yellow Ochre is more saturated and more orange in real life.

What surprises me is that, despite being yellower and a bit more orange, this ochre color behaves much more differently from today's Yellow Ochre (PY 43) and Transparent Yellow Oxide: it is more even transparent and it has a lower tinting strength.

In order to make it more luminous, I had to mix it with a little white and glaze some more ochre on the top layer. As you can see, mixing it with any color makes the mix more transparent.

One of the things that surprised me was mixing this with Phthalo Blue Red Shade (PB 15:1). The mix got very similar to what some brands sell as "Green Earth (PG 23)!"

Another pigment that surprised me was Lapis Lazuli. Mixed with my Ochre, it made an almost completely gray color that's usually only possible by mixing it with Light Red (PR 102)! This suggests that classical painters possibly glazed Lapis on top of Smalt more than we actually think.

Also, mixing it with Bone Black (PBk 7) gave me a mix that reminds me of a green shade of Raw Umber (PBr 7). If Vermeer had this sort of color with him, it's no surprise to me he mixed it with Raw Umber to create darker skin tones.

The mixes with Cadmium Red Medium (PR 108) also surprised me. I got a pink mix that was very similar to a desaturated version of Madder Lake (NR 9). I think this suggests classical artists mixed Vermillion (PR 106) with pale varieties of Yellow Ochre to get tones similar to Madder Lake. This would help explaining why some madder varieties don't seem to fade – it's possible that they did disappear, and this convenience mix is showing instead!

Chrome Titanate (PBr 24) is simulating Naples Yellow (PY 41) here. The mixes I got suggest artists back then actually mixed Yellow Ochres to Naples Yellow to get tones similar to what we see in current Yellow Ochres, which are probably made today by isolating more and finer particles of iron oxides. The similarity of this mix to today's Yellow Ochres is particularly apparent if you compare them side-by-side, as shown here.

Overall, the mixes make me think that classical painters layered lighter colors first, since nearly every color in the past had much lower tinting strength. Chances are glazing techniques weren't developed just for aesthetical reasons, but also for practical reasons, since you would rarely get a saturated layer of color on a first try.

Gigalot
07-27-2014, 07:14 AM
Here is my powdered brick pigment in watercolor, prepared with water and cherry gum solution. My cam show a distortion in color balance. Actual color is less yellowish, it is more "rusty"

Mythrill
07-27-2014, 09:14 AM
Here is my powdered brick pigment in watercolor, prepared with water and cherry gum solution. My cam show a distortion in color balance. Actual color is less yellowish, it is more "rusty"
Giga, that is indeed a nice color. In watercolors, it seems to become a glowing burnt sienna.

That's going to be a very useful color in oils, too. The scarlet overtones you'll get in tints with oils will be awesome! :D

indraneel
07-29-2014, 12:18 PM
Nice! Almost all bricks in my part of the world is made of mud from the Ganges... Cleaning out the organic matter is too daunting for me, so I've put it off. The mud has a nice greenish gray color.

Mythrill
07-29-2014, 06:32 PM
Nice! Almost all bricks in my part of the world is made of mud from the Ganges... Cleaning out the organic matter is too daunting for me, so I've put it off. The mud has a nice greenish gray color.

Indra, if your bricks are made of mud, then they're almost surely clean inside. You can get some fragments and pulverize them, like Giga did. It does make nice pigment.

Here, most bricks are rudimentary, made only of baked red ochre. If you mix the pigment powder with Raw Umber and Burnt Umber, you can make a fine-tuned Burnt Sienna (all PBr 7)!

indraneel
07-31-2014, 08:13 AM
Here are some photos of brickmaking in progress http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showpost.php?p=20081844&postcount=14

I was actually planning to make raw umber from the mud itself, isn't that what umber is supposed to be? The bricks however turn out very red, I'm not quite sure why. OTOH, I'm actually pretty happy with the synthetic iron oxides (used in the painting in my above linked post)... relatively cheap, no mess, high tinting strength and availability in all colors (except umbers).

Mythrill
07-31-2014, 09:05 AM
Here are some photos of brickmaking in progress http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showpost.php?p=20081844&postcount=14

I was actually planning to make raw umber from the mud itself, isn't that what umber is supposed to be? The bricks however turn out very red, I'm not quite sure why. OTOH, I'm actually pretty happy with the synthetic iron oxides (used in the painting in my above linked post)... relatively cheap, no mess, high tinting strength and availability in all colors (except umbers).
Oh, I see, Indra. If there's a large color shift, it turns out the bricks have a high content of hematite, so it loses water and becomes red when burnt.

What's a bit strange, though, is that the bricks themselves look a bit whitish here in your photo. It is also possible that they are adding synthetic iron oxides as colorants to the bricks.

I'd suggest you try making a small sample of pigment from the mud itself, Indra. If you're getting an ochre or an umber here, then the end result should at least be a light yellow or brown.

Alternatively, you can check if there are iron oxides in the clay by burning the mud yourself. The hue should shift considerably to orange or red and darken. The more iron oxides there are, the larger the shift to red (or, if it's an umber, with iron oxides and manganese, a deep brown with reddish undertones).

By the way, I'm practicing with my self-made pigment and the synthetic ones I have by doing a study of a Wan-Li vase. Overall, the natural ones have lower tinting strength and are easier to control – this part is only to be expected, of course.

What I couldn't expect, though, is that the natural pigment seems to have a larger color range, too. It goes from brown to a muted, rusty yellow in tints, and overall it has a very pleasing, warm cast.

I think what's partially to blame is Golden's Raw Umber (PBr 7), which doesn't seem natural at all. It easily matches or overpowers Winsor & Newton's "Burnt Umber" (actually Transparent Red Iron Oxide, PR 101), and it goes very cleanly in tints, just like a synthetic iron oxide does.

Golden's Raw Umber actually seems like a warm version of Violet Iron Oxide (PR 101) or Mars Black (PBk 11), but slightly browner and warmer. Proof of that is that it actually neutralizes Winsor & Newton's Yellow Ochre (PY 43), giving "muddy" grays and easily overpowers it – two things an actual Raw Umber with a yellowish or greenish cast shouldn't do!

I'll post the results here later so you can see them! :)

Gigalot
07-31-2014, 11:06 AM
Georgia is rich of a pure yellow clay, which is very useful raw material for bricks and ceramics. This clay gives a pure orange color for our "Made in Georgia" bricks. No synthetic colorants needs ever!
Here is a large deposit near of natural, pure yellow ochre in a village which has the name "Nagomari" Up to a three meter thick, contains 80-90% of yellow ochre layers are deposited. Unfortunately, I live far from this place.

Mythrill
08-01-2014, 12:03 AM
Georgia is rich of a pure yellow clay, which is very useful raw material for bricks and ceramics. This clay gives a pure orange color for our "Made in Georgia" bricks. No synthetic colorants needs ever!
Here is a large deposit near of natural, pure yellow ochre in a village which has the name "Nagomari" Up to a three meter thick, contains 80-90% of yellow ochre layers are deposited. Unfortunately, I live far from this place.
Giga, that rock looks absolutely beautiful. The rock itself should give a very light, scarlet red ochre! :)

As I promised, here's one comparison between natural pigments and synthetic ones. Since I want to do a study of Ambrosis the Elder, I've been drawing Wan-Li (Chinese) vases over and over. Despite being miniatures, these are accurate studies of how I would do an underpainting.

Vase 1 is a bit crooked, but it serves to illustrate my point.

Vase 1:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/31-Jul-2014/96427-Vase_2.jpg

This is my own, self-made Raw Umber mixed with Winsor & Newton's Yellow Ochre (PY 43) so I can get a wider gamut. Notice that, while the pigment has a relatively low tinting strength, the yellow bias actually boosts Yellow Ochre – which was otherwise almost unusable with my palette.The natural pigment feels like a golden brown, and it contrasts nicely with Yellow Ochre. Overall, a great pigment to start an underpaint with!

Now, with synthetic iron oxides, the results are a bit more complicated. I got very frustrated here, but decided to post anyway because I learned a little more on how to handle them.

Vase 3 (image more slightly more saturated than the original):

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/31-Jul-2014/96427-Vase_3_-_numbered.jpg
The biggest problem was Golden's Raw Umber (PBr 7?) here. If we are to consider the color swatch, Raw Umber has to have either a yellowish cast or greenish cast – the cast could even be slightly orange, but NEVER violet.

The problem is that Golden's Raw Umber feels exactly something between Mars Black (PBk 11) and Violet Iron Oxide – the difference is that it is transparent in tints.

Now, about each point here:

Point 1: I tried to mix a diluted Raw Umber with Yellow Ochre. It didn't work: considering it has a violet bias to it, it neutralizes ochres instead of just darkening them and sweetly darkening chroma. Worse: considering the paint has a very high tinting strength, covering it up and developing light and shadow becomes much harder. What could I do?
Point 2: At this point, I started adding Transparent Yellow Iron Oxide (PY 42) and "Burnt" Sienna (PR 101) to the mixes, playing with proportions to make colors behave like a single-pigment. It turns out, though, that glazing with four colors as one is much more complicated: glazing yellow over green gives a very different result compared to green over yellow. This made the right side of the vase much redder, which almost ruined my study.
Point 3: started adding fillers (calcium sulphate) to the paint to improve mixing properties. Finally I was getting somewhere. However, mixing the pigments on paper still doesn't quite seem to work yet.
Point 4: I remembered of mixing many pigments as a single pigment color, and here I not only added fillers, but also mixed the colors separately from my palette, using a paint knife. I finally learn how to handle those strong pigments, but, by then, it was a bit late. If this was a more serious painting (e.g, on canvas), it would have already been ruined.Overall, the colors in the second vase feel a bit richer to me, but they lack the harmony you can find in the second vase – which only uses two pigments with are relatively close to each other.


Another thing I noticed is that Golden's Raw Umber seemed to get in the way of mixes instead of softly darkening them. As I said, it feels almost black. I minimized the problem a bit by adding PR 101 to my palette to get something close to a violet bias. It's possible to diminish the problem by adding some calcium sulphate, but even so, as you can see below point 3, the places where the dark shadow can be found (in the middle) look quite unpleasant.

Honestly, I'd probably have a more harmonious mix here by mixing the pigment with Bone Black (PBk 9). Since both pigments are nearly black but Bone Black a bluish bias and a lower tinting strength, it would probably mix and harmonize quite better with this composition.

Another glaring problem with vase 2 is that, since these earth pigments feel so brighter, they feel like a painting in themselves – having much more tinting strength, it would be much harder to make them an underlayer, as you'd need much more paint to cover the some of the yellow tone of the paint.

Vase 1, on the other hand, feels a lot more transparent and neutral. It not works as glazes and as a color in itself, but it also neutral enough to be easily subdued by an overpainting.

It's also worth noting that, in order to get close to the cast of the first vase, I had to mix four synthetic pigments to achieve a similar cast and reduce the tinting strength. It's not impossible to do all that, but it's really tricky!

I hope I could explain what I mean about natural pigments and range! :)

indraneel
08-01-2014, 08:55 AM
Wonderful rock and paintings.

Mythrill : It's possible the mud has hematite as this is the "iron belt", and very well might have been the starting point of the iron age (due to the unique singular location of copper, iron and coal). OTOH, the mud comes from the bottom of the silt laden river that starts in the Himalayas.

I didn't see any addition of synthetic colorants, and doubt it very much as it'll add to the cost. The mud always looks greenish gray, and always sundries a bit whitish. They make idols of the never ending pantheon of gods and goddesses next door... and dry them on the side of the road. I think they get their mud from the bottom of the river, but my sister tried asking for some with no luck :(

Mythrill
08-01-2014, 09:24 AM
Wonderful rock and paintings.

Mythrill : It's possible the mud has hematite as this is the "iron belt", and very well might have been the starting point of the iron age (due to the unique singular location of copper, iron and coal). OTOH, the mud comes from the bottom of the silt laden river that starts in the Himalayas.

I didn't see any addition of synthetic colorants, and doubt it very much as it'll add to the cost. The mud always looks greenish gray, and always sundries a bit whitish. They make idols of the never ending pantheon of gods and goddesses next door... and dry them on the side of the road. I think they get their mud from the bottom of the river, but my sister tried asking for some with no luck :(

Indra, you could try to get some clay from around the river (near the margins). While surface clay will have more organic matter and impurities, it'll just take you more time and patience to clean it up and extract iron oxides from there, if you can find them. :)

Oh, regarding the pigment you saw – those aren't really rocks, but compressed clay and vegetable matter that was deep into the soil. It just happened some workers needed to do something there and left the earth abandoned, as it has no value to them. It seemed just a small pile, but I could actually choose and get a small bag!

Regarding the paintings, those are just miniature studies on drawing paper (250 g/mē). The first is 12cm x 8cm, and the second is 12cm x 10cm. Since acrylics are unforgiving, I do some of them before painting so I'll know exactly what to do on canvas. I do my best to execute them as if they were real paintings, though.

Gigalot
10-07-2014, 04:39 PM
I did new self-made nickel-manganese-zinc ferrite pigment. One hour grinding needs to make it from magnetic core ferrite ceramic. This ceramic is fragile and I have no problems to crash it to a powder.I was sure that it will be ordinary opaque black color. But, it is very pleasant pigment, strong enough, transparent and very fine grade. :) It's color is deeper than raw umber, but lighter and warmer than Vine black..

Mythrill
10-07-2014, 05:08 PM
I did new self-made nickel-manganese-zinc ferrite pigment. One hour grinding needs to make it from magnetic core ferrite ceramic. This ceramic is fragile and I have no problems to crash it to a powder.I was sure that it will be ordinary opaque black color. But, it is very pleasant pigment, strong enough, transparent and very fine grade. :) It's color is deeper than raw umber, but lighter and warmer than Vine black..

That's amazing, Giga! Can you show us where you got it, and how it looks like?

Gigalot
10-07-2014, 05:28 PM
That's amazing, Giga! Can you show us where you got it, and how it looks like?
Yes, today I used it much on my painting and tomorrow I will try to take a picture with color swatch. :)

Gigalot
10-08-2014, 08:45 AM
Self-made pigments:
Nickel-Manganese-Zinc Ferrite in linseed oil on the left
Vine Black (100% pure charcoal in linseed oil) on the right side:

Mythrill
10-08-2014, 04:02 PM
Self-made pigments:
Nickel-Manganese-Zinc Ferrite in linseed oil on the left
Vine Black (100% pure charcoal in linseed oil) on the right side:

Giga, both paints look smooth and creamy!

Why is it, though, that Zinc-Ferrite paint looks black instead of a deep brown?

Gigalot
10-08-2014, 04:24 PM
Giga, both paints look smooth and creamy!

Why is it, though, that Zinc-Ferrite paint looks black instead of a deep brown?
Yeah, I see both paints are black. You are right! Ferrite is a bit brown when used very thinly, but not enough to say that it is Umber or something..I guess it is neutral black.
I like smooth consistency, actually these paints are very pleasant, better than equal tubed colours. This is a reason to grind these pigments! :) All self-made paints are charming. Brick paint is the best of all.:D