Crystals of Anakiwi

This past winter I returned to Peru to continue my study of natural pigments.

This retreat was a continuation of the last one, picking up exactly where I left off.

Above is the Cordillera Escalara, a natural reserve in the Peruvian jungle. On the other side of this view are farmlands where coffee beans, cacao and vegetables are grown.

It is the lush jungle surrounding the art center where I worked.

One of my favorite places to forage for pigments is the Añakiwi river. It’s located on the border of this reserve.

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I’m beginning to learn how to identify the rocks. Here I mostly found different mixtures of ochre, clay and sandstone.

I’m always amazed to see the rainbow of colors I find from a foraging trip!

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To process the rocks into pigment, I crush and grind the stones into a powder.

I test the powdered rock on paper to decide which ones might make good paint colors.

I look for interesting qualities, textures or something I might not have encountered before.

Then I’ll mull the colors by hand to create watercolor paint. Each color can take up to an hour to process.

Making my own paint has taught me so much about the properties of watercolor.

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A week later my Anakiwi palette is complete!

These colors are so soft and gentle, radiating warmth.

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A break from studio was much needed.

I really wanted to visit the Pacaya Samiria Reserve. This area is known to house pink dolphins, crocodiles, toucans, snakes and a rich diversity of plant life.

We arranged a two day canoe trip to observe wildlife and experience a deeper part of the jungle.

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I started drawing plants and jungle gardens in my sketchbook.

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And when I came back I ended up painting a mural on Almira’s house using all natural pigments!

It was a different way to interact with the pigments and colors I had found.

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It was so fun and liberating to create this mural without any expectations, just pure doodling!

This project gave me a lot to think about in terms of scaling my work up, curvy lines and working within a subtle palette.

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I spent my mornings painting the mural and the hot afternoons working on a series of paintings on paper inside the studio.

I experimented, using the same wavy lines to make my paintings on paper.

I felt a different kind of freedom.

With a fresh perspective I continued to paint, focusing on making the best structures to show off the multi-faceted color palette.

I allowed every line to appear as it was felt.

You can see the whole series of paintings here.

Peru has such a special place in my heart. Being surrounded by the living, breathing jungle is indescribable!