I have been thinking about the powers of pigments since I read the book Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay,  and I have been curious about using sources from the earth to create color. I once tried to dye fabric with beets (following natural color dye instructions) with the kiddos and after a few washes there was much pink to be desired. Why not try another pigment adventure? And so, I did.


It begins with turmeric and the mortar and pestle. Turmeric is native to India. It was first used for dyeing purposes then later for medicinal. It is apart of the ginger family!

  • Add hot water to the turmeric.

I got the mortar and pestle as a gift this year and I admit I don't use it as much as I thought I would. I had visions of wearing over sized robes and making elixirs, potions for particular ailments. I knew it was possible that I might simply use it for grinding spices. 

  • Grind the turmeric with the pestle

I did this until the water was no longer warm. At this point I began painting in my sketchbook and making a swatch test.


Want to change it up? 

  • add  1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • add 1/4 teaspoon of vinegar
  • fill the rest with water and turmeric mixture

Here are the swatches. You can see that there is some grit in the paint.  


On my sketchbook image I just used the water and turmeric mixture. Then when dry (or mostly dry in this case) I wiped my paint with a paper towel to get the grit off. Making this was enough of success I may incorporate it into the studio.