Yesterday I went to a friend’s house to do a workshop in making paint from dry pigments. Rebecca’s primary focus is painting and staining guilds so painting on cloth is one of her big interests (while mine is illumination). The basic instructions are from Cennini (though we used rabbit skin glue to size the cloth before painting, and not gesso sottile. I confess I’ve never read all the way through Cennini, just bits of it, so it may be that using rabbit skin glue instead of gesso sottile is mentioned elsewhere in the book.)
So, first we stretched out linen and silk on frames, using oversized embroidery hoops. The linen was sized with the rabbit skin glue (which needs to be soaked for a while and then cooked) and the silk was sized with the rabbit skin glue plus some egg white. We left them to dry (which didn’t take long as it was warm out.)
Then we started in on making the paints. We didn’t do a lot of measuring mostly working by eye, though we probably used about a teaspoon of each pigment. The pigments were poured out on a glass slab, then water added to make a paste, and then ground with a muller. We added about 3 drops of egg yolk and then ground again. All the pigments (except two) were from Natural Pigments. https://www.naturalpigments.com/ Rebecca, Una and I took turns grinding the paints. I need to add that the egg yolk was from Rebecca’s adorable medieval chickens!
We decided not to do any toxic colors as Rebecca has pets and a child. The colors chosen are mostly ones available in Cennini’s time (though probably not all known by these exact names): Malachite, Nicosia Green Earth, Verona Green Earth, Azurite, Lapis Lazuli, Blue Ridge Violet Hematite, Blue Ridge Hematite, Lemon Ocher, Zinc White, Chalk, Lamp Black, and Vine Black. We added Yellow Ocher and Italian Brown Ocher which Rebecca had in her stash.
All the paints worked great except for the chalk (which flaked dramatically on both the linen and silk) and the blues. The Lapis Lazuli flaked quite a bit on the silk, and a little on the linen. The Azurite flaked a little on the silk. I suspect that those were all under-bound. I think we also needed to add more water to all of them to make them flow more.
All in all, it was a fabulous experimental workshop day and I look forward to doing more.