Monica Perez Vega

Contemporary Artist | My Life in Trees

Acorn Husks


…But is it pigment? Is it pigment if I say its pigment? It is a satisfyingly sludgy dark matter that spreads by brush. It dries grey on its own- like watching embers turn to ash, or paints a rich black when mixed with gum arabic.

I began by following the recipe in Make Ink: A Forager’s Guide to Ink Making, but it wasn’t long before I took a detour. This was the first recipe I was drawn to upon reading this book, and it called for rusty nails. I patiently waited a couple weeks for some nails to rust, then popped them in the pan with acorn husks and some of the rusty water, but the ink did not turn black. I think this was due to a combination of not enough rustyness and maybe not a long enough simmer. So, I added some iron sulphate and wham-o, to the rescue. I mixed some of this black inkyness with casein and painted with it.

Amazing, loved it.

Then I brewed another batch, and went through the pigment-making process by mixing with alum and soda crystals. I tried to be meticulous with my measurements but wasn’t getting any of that frothy separation, so I kept adding a bit more and a bit more… until finally I just left it, then sieved and rinsed and was left with what appeared to be a striking amount of pigment.

This can’t be right, I thought. Usually it’s just a tiny bit at the bottom of the jar. Hmm, I knew I probably screwed something up, but thought, oh well- let’s keep going and see what happens. In the end, it looked like some proper paint, but I was skeptical. I spread it into my ice tray /palette and mixed with gum arabic/glycerin.

I dipped my brush into the leftover spiddle of sludge at the bottom of my jar and painted directly onto a painting I was working on. As the sludge dried, it turned an ashy grey.

I really love this stuff- and will have to do it again to see if I get the same amount of pigment or if this was a result of some over-soda-and-alumming. What I do know, is that it felt yummy to paint with this earthy gooey goodness, even if I didn’t know exactly what it was or if I was even ‘doing it right’. What is right in the madness of making anyway? It’s all chaos and I love it.

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