Paint from stone? Paintbrush from a branch? Charcoal from wood?
Everything changed when I started making my art materials directly from the landscape. The moment I begin working on a piece happens much earlier than that of the first pen line or brushstroke. Before a pen or paintbrush mark hits the blank paper, a significant amount of time and energy has already been invested in procuring the art supplies. Preparation includes days and weeks of searching the landscape, gathering raw materials, processing and refining the elemental components and hand-crafting them into high quality tools and materials.
How to make charcoal from willow?
What about earth pigments from stone?
You may ask, with so many artist supplies easily available on the market, why do I choose to get them the hard way?
Making your own tools (and processing materials for doing so) from the landscape is unbelievably satisfying on a profound and even instinctive level. Much of this satisfaction comes from the process of transformation that occurs each time we make something from another thing. One of the results of making things from the landscape by hand is the unavoidable deepening of one’s knowledge of (and relationship to) the local bioregion where we live. Through working with raw materials, we begin to learn to speak the language of that particular material. We have to use our awareness in order to observe the specific characteristics, strengths and limitations that are unique to the material. Through this level of interaction a conversation begins, where we learn to be receptive to the feedback the raw materials provide as we manipulate them to take the shape and function that we desire. Ultimately this level of participation with the landscape is a path to help us remember that we are part of its natural history and ecology, not just a visitor like an astronaut on a foreign planet.
I find the materials themselves to be inherently attractive, and so I aspire to make tools that are as beautiful in their function and that retain as much of their raw form as possible.