Zimbabwean Creating Pigments For Painting

Art & Design | By Calvin Chimutuwah, Fine Artist | 07 October 2013

I have been painting for over twelve years. Somehow I have become tired of using these conventional paints, oils and acrylics. So, I’m experimenting with minerals to produce pigments.

This project has been going on for last 6 months whereby. I am going around picking soils, crushing rocks that have different colours and trying to see how far they can expand my palette. I am also working with plants, fruits and leaves, especially, the mulberries to just produce inks for drawings.

I am using different surfaces, working with water colour paper to observe how these inks would react on those and so far, the results are very impressive. My challenge which I know with time, I will get through it is on how I will preserve these inks because I understand with time they will turn to yellow or browns; but I’m working closely with food scientists, so that they can give some synthetics that I will use for preserving these organic pigments that I’m producing.

With soils, the very interesting thing is that the deeper you go, the more colours you will get. For example, so far, most of the colours that I have got are more of browns and yellows and reds. I’m looking for blues and I understand that; if I work closely with people who are doing a lot of mining activities, and work with the residues that they just throw away, I will get those kinds of pigments; the grays and the blues. Gathering these pigments involves a lot of travelling, to widen my palette and see how far I can go to produce these pigments using these minerals.

Naming the Organic Pigments
The reason why I am pushing this project and trying to get these pigments, I am a Christian and we are told to be fruitful and multiply and one of the things is that; I want this to be my brain child. In our African culture when you are told to be fruitful and multiply, we only think of reproducing children. But, this is my brain child and I’m yet to name it. I’m yet to give it a name. So far, I have just called them mineral and organic paints but that’s just like a technical approach to the name; but with time, I’m sure I’m going to come up with a name. Most likely, it’s going to come out of my name and my surname and then probably, I will work out something and then come up with a name for these pigments that I’m producing.

The Journey to a New Pigment
This is an experimental journey and I’m very keen to see how these pigments will look. Maybe after ten years. So far, it’s like I’m not yet there. If I could just fast forward some years and then it’s easy for me to experiment much quickly.

The main thing is how these pigments would hold on canvas, water colour paper and fabrics, for example, if I’m to use them as fabric paints. I’m very positive that, if I’m to use them as fabric paints, the success is very near and also on water colour paper. I have seen how they react on water colour paper. On canvas, I think there is still a lot of experimentation that needs to be done because I want to avoid the cracking effect. I want to work also with the drying rate. The slower they dry, the more permanent they will be. So, it’s still an experiment. At the moment, I am using just pana wood glue, as a fixing agent on the canvas. I also need to know how they would react to gloss varnishes, arias (that is) gloss varnishes after they completely dry. So, all these things, I’m still working on and I know there is an answer; it’s only that I haven’t yet paved a way forward on how I would get that; but the good thing is; it’s going to be an interesting journey for me and I know that I’m going to win and in a few years to come, we are going to be using these paints and release them on the market.  

Read More on the Journey to new pigments
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