Monday, July 7, 2008

The Red Place

The rock and sand around that mesa made it the reddest place I've ever been. Those of you who recall my primary memory, described in the first post, will understand why that place was especially suited to take on a heightened significance. I picked up a little bag of the red sand and used it later to paint with. This painting is called The Red Place. (sand on paper)


Cathy said...


How do you paint with sand?

Dan Dutton said...

Just add water. Ha ha. I had the watercolor paper with me, already torn into 5" x 7"s. I made my brushes the same way the Anazazi potters did, by chewing the fibers at the base of a yucca leaf-blade-spike. The spike forms the handle and the chewed fibers make the brush. That red sand was very fine, like dust, with a lot of iron oxide in it. With a little water added it made a stain that seeped down into the fibers of the paper. So the pigment is held in place by the interstices of the paper - not with a film of binder, as is the more usual case with "paint". Normal watercolor, or good ones rather, use gum arabic, mixed with a little honey for a binder. The viscosity also makes "brushability" - but that's a description based on a preconception - the red sand was brushable too, it just required a different touch. Brush makes bone. the Chinese painters said.
I'm a little surprized that these have held up so well. Jostled in a llama pack, then laying in a manila envelop in various corners for years - but the red from the red place, if it is iron oxide as I suspect, is as close to "absolutely permanent" as a pigment gets, & one that we actually have fairly long tests of - the cave paintings in France utilize red ochre - a clay colored with iron oxide, & they're still looking good after some thousands of years.