Wednesday, 1 May 2013

'Bolt from the blue' paint laboratory

Yesterday was Blue Monday at Fabrica. For each exhibition I run a day workshop doing something that for me relates to the show and that I think other people will benefit from in some way.
In my workshop for Kaarina Kaikonnen's 'The Blue Route' I set up a laboratory to stretch the limits of paint making. Blue pigment was my starting point because of the theme and the connection to Amiens and woad production (see Fabrica website for more info).

I realised that experimentation in making paints and grounds to paint on has been a strong characteristic of my work for many years. Wanting to know why you had to do things in a particular way was always in my mind as I substituted other materials to try things out, instead of buying shop bought tubes and tubs. I've done everything from using bars of chocolate instead of water colour pans then using it to paint with my tongue, to the more traditional egg tempera on homemade gesso. With egg tempera I love the bit when you have to roll the yolk on your hand to dry the sack in order to empty its treasure with the prick of a pin.

I like to try textures and mixes based on how people throughout time and across cultures have mixed substances to carry colour to draw with. I usually start with wanting a certain type of mark, a thin shiny smear or a dry rasping scumble. It's a very intuitive process.

One of my all time favourite books is Robert Massey's 'Formula's for painters', it's a straight forward recipe book for sizes, grounds, mediums and everything I could ever need for painting or drawing with. This book is where I find out about the 'proper' way to do it and learn a lot about how and where I can afford to adapt the ingredients for my own use.

So setting up a laboratory in Fabrica was a way I could share a certain kind of approach to understanding something about paint, and how it works and how you can make it the way you want it. How exciting and surprising it is to spend time experimenting and what you can get out of an old jar of hand cream if you have woad and vegtable oil to mix with it.