"Many of the functions of medieval art have been usurped in modern times by the machine. The two most extensive fields of medieval art production--books and textiles--have been taken over almost entirely nowadays by the forces of mechanical production. We need not raise the question here of whether there is any loss for us in that..."; Daniel V Thompson (The materials and techniques of medieval painting Dover 1956)Victoria Finlay literally traveled the world to reveal the origins of pigment production, and she reminds us that there were challenges to storing paints too. Her book "Colors" directly ties the natural sourcing of pigments and the cultures that are intimately tied to them; "Colors" amplifies the historic cultural, and spiritual, connections between pigments and the artists who harvested them:
"For centuries, artists had stored their paints in pigs' bladders. It was a pain staking process: they, or their apprentices, would carefully cut the thin skin into squares. Then they would spoon a nugget of wet paint into each square, and tie up the little parcels at the top with string. When they wanted to paint, they would pierce the skin with a tack, squeeze the color onto their palette and then mend the puncture. It was messy, especially when the bladders burst, but it was also wasteful, as the paint would dry out quickly. Then in 1841 a fashionable American portrait painter call John Goffe Rand devised the first collapsible tube..."(p19 of Victoria Finlay's Color - A Natural History of the Palette 2004 Random House)
"We forget that throughout the history of medieval art there were no prepared packaged paints, inks, or parchments leaves. The locating of particular pigments required a familiarity with nature which was so intimate as to be incomprehensible to us today. It required a knowledge of not only the unchanging elements of nature, but of those that vary with climate, with geography, with the time of year. The eggs of a specific insect, at a specific time in its life, would yield a particular pigment. At other times, the eggs would be useless. " (p22 of 1974 Mappae Clavicula: A little key to the world of medieval technique)
"When there were no purified chemicals in labeled bottles and no general theory to guide him, the artisan would not lightly change his practice. Moreover, the more spectacular recipes are the least likely to be omitted by a compiler: feeding a virgin goat with ivy and using his mixed blood and urine to carve crystal will impress the layman more than the suggestion simply to dip in turpentine." (p18 of 1974 Mappae Clavicula: A little key to the world of medieval technique)
This is reinforced in the 15th century work The Craftsman's Handbook "Il Libro dell'Arte" by Cennino d'Andrea Cennini (translated by D.V.Thompson). Cennini describes how his father introduced him to the sources of various pigments and plants by walking the countryside. His spiritual experiences with being an artisan radiates throughout his detailed handbook:
"To approach the glory of the profession step by step, let us come to the working up of the colors, informing you which are the choicest colors, and the coarsest, and the most fastidious; which one needs to be worked up or ground but little, which requires another; and just as they differ in their colors, so do they also in the characters of their temperas and their working up."
1) Digital Painting: While playing with our new Dell Inspiron tablet/all-in-one and iPad (Adobe's mixer brush and Layer's App) ... dream about purchasing an Wacom Cintiq tablet.
2) Medieval Technology: Planting dyer's garden now with help from my wife; the goal is to harvest these materials this year/next and then begin experimenting. I will be attending this year's Monticello Natural Dye Workshop to get bootstrapped. Note to self: use glass jars to store the paints, as reinventing "pig bladder tube technology" lowers the return-on-investment.