Somedays you just have to create your own sunshine

Yes, even in Portugal.  We do have rain, sometimes lots of it and right now its very, very wet and grey.  Since early November we have had wall to wall sunshine, piercing blue sky and very cold nights but, as we expected, that has now changed and its wet.

We have been very busy building and fitting out my new studio and finally I got to paint the walls this week.  Firstly with 3 coats of white paint (I still can't find any good quality paint here, its like water and does not cover well) then the exciting bit - COLOUR!!!

Around 25 years ago my lovely Dad gave me a Christmas present, a box of natural pigment paint powders from Provence - France (actually from very near where he lives).  They came in a great selection of colours with a little bottle of linseed oil and a bottle of an unknown substance called 'Siccative'.  I have taken this box of colourful goodies everywhere I have been since.  I could have thrown it out or just left it behind as I have moved house so many times, and sometimes under very stressful circumstances but something kept telling me to bring it with me.  The kit looks so lovely, beautifully wrapped boxes of vibrant coloured powders just calling out to be used.

So I thought that this should be the moment when I finally use Dads present.  I did some research and it seems that earth pigments are pretty special.  I did know about them through my soap making as they made great natural coloured soaps but had never used them as a paint.  

Earth pigments are naturally occurring minerals, principally iron oxides, that people have used in paints for thousands of years for their natural color. These natural pigments are found in rocks and soils around the world, where different combinations of minerals create vibrant colors that are unique to the regional landscapes.  Some earth pigments are roasted in order to intensify their color.  The colours available include ochers, sienna, and umbers and the powders produce soft, earthy hues that create uniquely vibrant, natural color that is straight from nature.  Perfect for my new studio and a great opportunity to introduce some colour to the walls.

Firstly I picked a sunshine combination of gold and yellow Ochre to lift the spirits, lit my gorgeous little wood burner and got mixing.  Its a little bit like magic, mixing and blending colours, oils and white spirit as well as this mysterious substance siccative which acts as a drying and setting agent.  Its nothing like the normal way of decorating, just slapping some coloured emulsion on the wall, it's way more exciting.

You mix the pigment powders with the oil and when this is blended you add the white spirit and the Siccative.  Its really very easy.  The mixture is very liquid and very smelly, you need the windows open while doing this - fine as my burner is so hot I either open the windows or strip off!

The first stage is to use a large brush and just go mad really, covering the white in as many strokes in different directions as you feel like,  Clutching the brush and the paint kettle you then use a soft cloth and just buff it up into a cloudy soft looking mass of lovely colour.  It picks up all the little indentations in the initial paintwork and the taping and filling needed for a plaster board wall, but it really does not matter.  It almost looks better the more rough the wall behind is (wish I'd known that before the hours of filling and sanding that went on to prepare the surface of the wall for painting!)  I am a convert, I love my sunshine walls and the lift they have given the studio. 

Sadly there is only one quarry still working in Southern France, this is a link to a company using their pigments 

Have any of you ever used natural paint pigments in your home? if so I would love to see some pictures.