Clay, Iron, and Realgar

July 11, 2007

green clay pomegranate

This pomegranate is painted with four kinds of green clay (plus black shale and a bit of charred bone).  Green clays are sticky and always end up looking rather flat.  But the colors are worth it!  Two of these are glauconite (“terre verte”) from sedimentary rock, and two are bentonite and other clays from weathered volcanics.  Black “oil” shale and charred bone provide the dark accents.  For me the green clays have always conjured an image of a smooth round jar with multiple openings.  This represents the living, growing earth, and is connected to the Empress in the Tarot.  So it was a natural choice for this pomegranate design, which could be a storage jar, a pouring vessel, or a flute.

yellow ochre and purpurite

This one is painted in yellow ochre (iron hydroxide) and purpurite (manganese phosphate).  It is meant to be a soft, comforting shape inspired by two fungi:  the puffball Lycoperdon pyriforme, and the cup fungus Sarcosphaera coronaria.  (I have loved fungi since I was ten years old, and many of them have become part of my spirit, even though I rarely see anything but a few weird and rare desert fungi where I live now.)

iron furnace

This one is an iron furnace, and a scanning nightmare!  I’ll have to scan and adjust the orange part separately, and layer them in photoshop, since the original is bright but not as harsh as this picture.  Inspired by my own ironwork and by some Thai cooking pots that I’ve seen – they are nearly spherical and made of forged and riveted heavy scrap iron plate, with ornate handles and chains. (When the oil runs out and civilization falls apart, the blacksmiths of the Lands of the Tiger will rebuild the world out of scrap metal, using charcoal made from shattered houses…but only if the tiger survives.)  The iron is painted in magnetite, manganese oxide, and charred bone, overlain with blue vivianite.  Did I really need THREE black pigments?  Yes.  I have about a dozen in my palette, all different.  The fiery furnace is painted mostly with realgar (arsenic sulfide), a recent gift from a friend.  I am not usually a fan of the toxic pigments, but it’s a very tiny amount and I wanted to see how such a bright, hot color works with the rest of the mineral pigments, which are on the cool side.  The paint is actually a mix of red realgar (AsS) and yellow orpiment (As2S3).  Realgar isn’t stable and changes to orpiment when exposed to light.  That can take months for a crystal, but of course it’s nearly instantaneous with powdered pigment.  Pure orpiment is bright yellow.   Anway, the pigments that darken the edges of the fire are yellow ochre and orange AMD ochre (genuine Acid Mine Drainage iron sulfate from a Pennsylvania coal mine dump, toxic to creeks but not to humans, and a beautiful pigment).

I did work with some real iron today, and made a dozen tiny triangular bells for a shaman’s belt.  They still need clappers and a chain.  And I sketched the next few pomegranates – I already know how many I plan to paint…but how many do YOU think is enough? 🙂


5 Responses to “Clay, Iron, and Realgar”

  1. judithornot said

    These are beautiful, Lorena! Am fascinated with the way you use natural ingredients to create such evocative works of art — a medium with which so many artists have lost touch. Interesting — I tend to be more of a textile art person (or clay or metals, things that have more physcial shape or texture), but your drawings touch me in the same way. Perhaps it is because you use the natural pigments. I enjoy all your variations on the pomegranates. 🙂

  2. Karin said

    As many as the seeds in a pomegranate, of course! (:

    Happy Goddess Day.

  3. Hemera said

    Many, like Karin says..I suspect you´ll always be oainting them 😉
    The different shades of green in the first pomegranate are wonderful!

  4. Hemera said

    I had to add that I think this is somehow fascinating about these toxic colours.. Toxins are so much part of Nature after all. Most of the plants are toxic, for instance. And chemically many toxins are interesting.
    I work with many toxic substances (in the biology lab) and while I´m not a fan of actually working with them on a daily basis I do have admiration and respect towards them.(Well, of course I would, this sounds silly.. I can´t explain..) But I do think it is exciting to see how fiery the furnace turns with the toxic paint. Some of the most beautiful shades of pink, blue and turquoise get visible in UV-light when DNA is stained with Ethidium Bromide which is a highly toxic chemical. I guess what I mean to say is that there is a lot of beauty in unexpected places. Sort of like the beauty of the Desert? Maybe one could even say the beauty of Death..??

  5. […] fire inside (rendered in realgar, not yellow ochre), and a painting of a pomegranate made of fire. Posted by ironwing Filed in […]

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