Blue has always eluded artists. Lapis Lazuli was one of the first blues available for use after huge processing. But not a ‘native’ rock to the UK. In fact, there is very little blue available in the UK for pigment. For use in dye we resorted to woad – a tall woodland plant that after a series of processes similar to processing indigo, a beautiful blue could be acquired for dye. However, the use of woad as a pigment as opposed to a dye is less common. Woad should ideally be harvested in the Autumn and processed. I have a source of woad in a physics garden in Petersfield. I hope to harvest the leaves for the blue dye and also the seeds to then integrate into the woodland, its native habit. For this project, I have been able to get hold of Woad pigment from www.woad.org.uk – a phenomenally brilliant company specialising in growing and processing UK woad.
The process of obtaining the pigment from the dye is something I look forward to do with my own woad this Autumn. For now I have this beautiful blue package to experiment with. In theory this blue pigment should bind successfully with the oil to make ink. We shall see.
The other option for blue in the Havant area is to find a sample of Vivianite. Oddly, and amazingly, I was browsing the UCl Pigment Reference Collection and there was a sample Vivianite found in West Leigh Landfill site, which is approximately 1 mile from where I am typing. Vivianite is a phosphate mineral often found in clay substrate forming near organic materials such as shells or bone. This would make sense since West Leigh Landfill site is on a London clay seam. Finding a sample myself is a case of following the seam, and digging sample holes in the most likely area where organic materials may also have become trapped in the clay. This is a long term project, but certainly worthwhile. The blue produced is a dark grey-blue, but blue none-the-less.
And why the hunt for blue? Well if I can find blue, I can make green with the yellow ocres. It is a primary colour, and thus essential to use. The experiments continue.