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Unlocking the Secrets of
Medieval Painters and Illuminators

By Sybil Archibald & Karen Gorst



Recipes for making over 50 pigments from scratch, lightfastness tests, pigment interaction tests and much more including the relationship between early alchemists and color recipe development and the alchemical spiritual meaning behind the different chemical processes.



EXCERPT:                                                                                          Madder Root

Imagine saffron aroma, stewing plants, and the scent of fresh squid. Hear stone grinding against stone, leaves being crushed and the excited chatter of apprentices learning their next task.  Breathe in the bitter aloe flavor and taste it at the back of your throat.  See stones of brilliant green and deep blue, herbs hanging upside-down to dry, mussel shells filled with puddles of rich red and clear yellow paint, and over against the wall a row of desks with projects in various states of completion. Need a specific greenish yellow for your new painting?  You grab the bunch of dried weld hanging on the wall and put it to boil.


This is the spectacular world available to the artist who knows traditional recipes and techniques. For a greenish yellow, weld might be the perfect choice. But for a bright transparent yellow, saffron would clearly shine.  The expanded variety of colors with their individual hues, textures, and working properties can give artists the technical edge to fulfill

their personal visions.  Making pigments also creates such an intimate relationship to colors
that the very notion of what “blue” is, for example, can be transformed as the artist becomes connected to the essence of blue in a new and exciting way.  This intimacy is at a far removed from going to an art supply store to buy a tube of paint.  With limited color choices, homogenized working properties and the x-factor, invisible extenders and additives, an artist can never be sure what a paint manufacturer is selling.  In the plastic shopping bag the paint tubes knock together with a dull thud.  It is like buying a carton of milk, instead of milking a cow.  The scents, the textures and the beauty of the farm are gone.


We are living in a time of great revival in traditional methods and materials.  Although tube paints are the norm in art supply stores, lately it has become noticeably easier to find the raw materials for traditional paints.  By combining these ancient techniques with recent research, an artist has more power and possibility to create than ever before in the history of art.   



Putrification An Illumination by Sybil ArchibaldAlmond Shells, Azurite, Azurite/Malachite, Bistre, Bone Black, Bone White, Brazilwood, Burnt Ocher, Burnt Sienna, Cabbage, Chalks, Chrysocolla, Cinnabar, Clays, Cochineal, Flower Petals, Fustic, Hematite, Honey Green, Jasper, Indigo, Ivory Black, Kermes, Lac, Lapis Lazuli, Leather, Leeks, Linseed Oil, Logwood, Madder, Malachite, Massicot, Peach Pit Grey, Red Lead, Rue, Salt Green, Safflower, Saffron, Sap Green, Silver Blue, Soap Green, Spinach, Tiger’s Eye, Turmeric, Verdigris, Vermillion, Vine Black, Vivianite, Weld, Woad, White Lead


 Alchemist's Symbol

 by Sybil Archibald



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The Pigment Almanac (A reference guide to pigments)



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