Hélène Soalhat, administrative manager, and Professor Reed set up a workshop for us at the Conservatoire des Ocres et de la Couleur in Roussillon. Here we learned about the many steps involved in the process of manufacturing ochre. Important facts, such as how it is used in painting and the binders and other mediums needed to hold the pigment, were thoroughly discussed. In a classroom setting we experimented with different pigments under the guidance of our tour guide, Cecilia, an interior designer and ochre professional.
Students gathered around family-style tables and began testing the first of three water-based binders with different pigments. We used gum arabic (hardened sap) to bind our first set of pigments. Gum arabic is nontoxic and is used as a prime ingredient in products such as soft drinks and M&M’s. Being a very versatile material, it is an incredible substance for water-based painting. Our second binder was egg yolk, which is used in the tempera painting technique. Tempera was the primary method of painting until around 1500, when the oil technique was introduced. In this process, the egg yolk is separated from the egg white and the thin skin that holds the yolk in. The yolk is then mixed with the water in a one-to-four part ratio and has a thinner consistency than that of gum arabic. When used in painting, you can build up multiple layers to create beautiful effects. We then used an odd binder of yogurt and limestone in a painting medium called Casein. This binder had similar effects to that of tempera minus the foul smell. If used in a painting, it might be a good decision to varnish the surface in order to contain the stench. All of these binders are mixed using one-part medium to four-parts water to create the perfect consistency for painting.
By Tyler Giordano
Photo Credits- Sandra Reed