New workshop at Chelsea Physic Garden: Making paints with plants

April 17, 2019

New workshop at Chelsea Physic Garden: Making paints with plants

Plant pigments have been used for thousands of years to make paint. I've always been fascinated by the stories of colours, when they were first used and how they evolved into the paints we squeeze out of a tube. There is something quite magical about the process from plant to palette.

Do you love plants, colour, and exploring your creativity?

It's with so much pleasure that I introduce a new workshop at Chelsea Physic Garden, where we'll be making watercolour paints with plants. Making your own paint is a combination of nature study and play. You'll discover some unusual and exciting ways to make colours, and use them to make a lovely botanical painting.

For those that don't know Chelsea Physic Garden, it's the second oldest botanic garden in Britain, and a gorgeous oasis of calm in the city. It's one of my favourite places in the London, and I'm very excited to be working with them!

Last week I shared some paint making techniques with friends Julian and Penny. Julian is an experienced painter (he taught me at art college years ago :) and Penny is less experienced but loves art and craft projects. They picked a posy from the garden as a subject to paint, and a big bunch of grass from the lawn for the first batch of paint.

We put the grass into a mixing bowl with a cup of water, then blended them to a pulp with a hand held blender. We also made a pulp using red cabbage, the perfect vegetable to make blue paint!

making plant pigments, picking flowers

making plant pigments - pouring Next we mixed artists pigments of indigo, stil de grain (made with buckthorn berries) and rose madder, from the rose madder plant root. We used with a glass muller and glass plate to grind the pigments to a fine powder then added gum arabic (from the acacia tree). The plate and underside of the muller have a rough texture, creating an abrasive surface on which to grind down gritty pigments. When they become a fine powder they can be mixed with gum arabic to use for painting. After an indigo mix, Julian lifted the muller to discover a beautiful fern-like pattern underneath!

painting with plant pigments 3

painting with plant pigments - mixing indigo pigment

making plant pigments - red cabbageWe also used plant extracts to make a weld yellow, brazil wood red, and another blue with mallow flowers. With these essential colours we mixed a few new ones to make a gorgeous palette ready for painting.

painting with plant pigments

painting with plant pigmentsIt was a wonderful day, which Julian and Penny found 'incredibly soothing and magical'! 

The techniques we demostrated here will be part of the workshop at Chelsea Physic Garden on Sunday 18th August. It's a one day event from 10am till 4pm, including all materials, refreshments and lunch. There will also be time to wander around the garden at your leisure. 

To find out more about the venue and book tickets, head over to the event page.

A huge thank you to Cornelissen & Son for sponsoring this workshop. 


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