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52 Locally Made Paints from 52 Suburbs

This is a box of 52 paints which represents a year of work in my studio. Each watercolour pan in this set of paints represents at least a few hours of artist alchemy, with days of brewing and drying time between steps.

For every colour there is a plant or rock collected from a different suburb of the Moreton Bay Region. After collecting samples, I brew the plant samples and grind down the rocks with sandpaper. The brewed plants in water then sit for at least a couple of days to get a strong colour. This is called a lake dye. When a rock is ground it is a pure pigment.

To make a pigment for paint out of a lake dye I add a metallic salt and alkali. I generally use alum and marble dust. Once these are added, I pour into a fine filter like a tea bag or coffee filter to catch the pigment and strain out all water. This needs to sit at least a few days to dry all the way through and be ready to grind.

Once my pigment has dried after sitting for a few days, I grind it in a mortar and pestle. After it is ground I add gum arabic, mull it into a smooth consistency and transfer it into a pan. I use gum arabic because I make plans of watercolour. You could use binder to make acrylic or linseed oil to make oil paint. I like that a watercolour will reactive when dry and is so easy to store.

This project is supported by a RADF grant from the Moreton Bay Regional Council in partnership with the Queensland Government.

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