I really love to paint. It does wonders for my emotional health. I feel like paint, especially acrylic paint, is the most versatile medium I’ve been exposed to.
Acrylic paint is possibly the safest kind of paint that is easy to acquire, but I do not think it is the best thing for my physical health. I am an extremely messy artist. I will often paint when I have ten minutes to spare, meaning that I will often forget to wash paint off my skin before going on to my next task. Oil paint would be terrible for an artist like myself to use, the fumes make people sick. Even though acrylic isn’t nearly as bad I do not know what the long term effects can be and I really do not like using random chemicals for an activity I find so therapeutic.
The idea to make my own paint has been floating around in my head for a while. I wouldn’t have to buy it, the fact that I have to buy it so often is really against my personal philosophy of “fuck money”. I thought it might be fantastic to make paint out of natural materials that would be safe to eat.
This weekend my friend and fellow painter, Piera came to visit me. I told her my idea and we got to work. She taste-tested much of the paint.
I had done a little bit of reading online about making homemade paints. Many of the articles recommended making a tempera type paint out of egg, but I really didn’t want these paints to rot too easily. I read cornstarch and milk would be good ingredients, so I thought we’d try those and go from there. Piera thought we could also try using some kind of oil, especially since we planned to apply heat to some of the materials. We also added coconut oil to our list of ingredients. Hurray for experimentation.
For pigments I had Red Malabar spinach dye. I had thought turmeric would be great because I cook with turmeric a lot and have a lot of fantastically dyed yellow articles of clothing.
The first kind we tried was actually somewhat of a success. We created a sort of oil-based yellow ink made from coconut oil, cornstarch and turmeric, we applied this to heat and it came out rather nice. Unfortunately once we waited a few hours it dried a bit and it turned kind of waxy. When I tried to apply it to my painting it didn’t really show up. I wonder if I could have melted it and used it, sort of like encaustic paints? I may try this next time.
We tried again with the turmeric, but this time adding some soy milk and whipping it, sort of like a rue. It came out, well, like a yellow rue. It was slightly clumping and I thought it would not work well, but it turned out to be really fun to use as sort of a thick paste. One of my favorites to play with actually.
We tried making the oil based ink with the spinach dye, like we did with the turmeric, but since the dye is water-based it did not want to mix with the oil. Not wanting to waste it, we threw in some soy milk, making a strange pinkish/purple clump. This stuff was meh, not as cool as the yellow.
We tried to make paint out of chili pepper and milk, but the chili pepper did not want to release its color. Instead we made a paprika ink, applied to heat. It came out a dark, dark red, almost brown. It led a similar life to ink yellow and turned wax like, but since it was so dark it would look nice when I spread it over a surface.
The Spinach dye actually made a fantastic ink on its own, but to make the color a little more solid I put in a bit of soy milk and cornstarch. This was without applying any heat. The cornstarch fell to the bottom and that scrapping the bottom of the container made it came out looking sort of tempera –like, but dried in a pastel sort of way.
At the last minute we found some cranberry and simply mixed that with milk, it was like a light glaze.
I painted an elephant. I talk about art as re-arranging things that already existing into something different. Usually I just use materials other people made, the paint, but now I am re-arranging materials into materials that I re-arrange into pictures. Elephants never forget, I do not forget the history of my materials. It was really fun to mold with the thicker paints.
Piera painted a very interesting painting using our “paints” and all kinds of other materials, including an orange peel! She let me add to it the following day.
I plan to continue experimenting. I want to try using this sunflower seed I heard makes a dark purplish ink. I also want to try beets, and perhaps mashed carrots?
I really liked how the cornstarch looked. I read that soap flakes work great with cornstarch and pigment today. I think I will try that soon, but I am going to try and make my own soap first.
I will update ya’ll on how my elephant painting progresses.
Please experiment and let me know what you come up with!