Thursday, March 4, 2010

Vine Black

Artists have made black pigments from a huge variety of sources. The majority have been the by product of burning or charring some material. Probably the earliest pigment ever made, is Vine black. Made from charcoal, it is seen on the walls of famous cave paintings close to 20,000 years old.

This will be the first pigment I've ever made from scratch. I researched how vine black was made in the past. I would need to collect some wood and heat it, but cut off most of the oxygen so that it would char, not burn. To do this, I made a crucible by lining the inside of a flower pot with foil. I read that willow is supposed to make the best charcoal. So I gathered and cut up some thin branches, put them in the crucible and covered the top. I put this in our wood stove.

Twigs of willow in the crucible, ready to go into the fire.

The willow out of the fire. I tried a piece out, it makes excellent drawing charcoal!

Onto grinding. Once my charcoal was ground, I washed it in water. Wood ashes contain potash, which lye is made from. This should remove most of it. Once the charcoal was dry again, I did a final grinding.

The finished pigment.

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