Spicing It Up

Art is just another form of communication – it’s a language just like any other. And like any other, it has to be composed of a number of building block. In the case of art, the classical ones (light, composition, tone) are all essential (words, grammar, punctuation).

And then you get the elements that are new and sometimes quite interesting – slang and regional accents, for example, some of which change over time, and some of which stick and become part of the language forever. Art has always had it’s experimental elements that build on the classical techniques. In some senses, because it is an intrinsically creative process, the pace of experimentation may even happen faster than it does in verbal and written language.

Last week while I was talking to friends and family who have been to Morocco, in preparation for the Cox and Kings Moroccan Art painting, a suggestion was made by Vahid who had just come from attending a conference in Rabat. He talked about the street food, the buildings, and the buzz. And the spices. For me, Morocco has two main colour groups – the blues and the earth tones. I’m focused on the blues right now, so the spices weren’t on my radar until that conversation.

The best part of painting is the playing so, inspired by my conversation with Vahid, I just had to experiment a bit. Google gave me a list of spices most often found in Moroccan cooking. Some of them were pretty colourless (salt, pepper and fresh ginger). But there were a few in my kitchen that fitted the profile and had strong colours. A few quick tests revealed a lot:

Cinnamon
Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a non-starter – It’s too dry and doesn’t bind to the paper. Even with a coat of fixative, it’s unexciting. The only thing I notices is that the very dry cinnamon rubbed onto the paper stops the paint from moving across the paper surface very well. The splatters stay very tight.

Paprika
Paprika

Paprika is much more interesting. The grains stay quite whole, but the colour of the spice does dissolve somewhat in water and leave a stain. The grains bind together to create a texture on the paper. Worth thinking about.

Turmeric
Turmeric

The really interesting one in the group is turmeric. The yellow colour stains the paper as soon as a bit of water is applied and it creates some great textures with watercolour.  I love the effect created by splattering wet painting onto the turmeric-treated paper.

The next stage was to try seeing how the spice affected the blues in my palette. More interesting results. And then there are the earthy rust and red colours added to turmeric paper. The difference is less dramatic, but the texture is still interesting.

Turmeric and paint
Turmeric and paint

A pure watercolourist would probably be horrified at these ideas – but I’m having a blast, getting a better feel for Morocco, and my studio smells amazing!

Next post will start dealing with the painting itself – I promise.

 

 

5 thoughts on “Spicing It Up

  1. Vandy, how interesting and what fun. Do you know the book: Color: Travels Through the Paintbox by Victoria Finlay? I had a copy once and I think you would like it.

  2. Dear Vandy – now I am going to have to try that turmeric – love the result you achieved with it. My motto is what ever works – we artists need to always be thinking out of the box. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Congratulations to all these experiences: very interesting!I’m not surprised that turmeric is also interesting: he is very staining and makes spots … ;)All this is great fun! but we must also address the permanence of pigments ….maybe after a few days in the sun, everything would pale?) but it does not matter. Bravo !!!!

    1. You’re quite right, Sabine. The experimental components are hard to test in a short timeframe. So far, there has been no change in 10 days, but I can’t guarantee the colour won’t change over time. So I’ve only used small amounts in the final painting.

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