Watercolor, Honeycolor, Beetcolor, Broccolicolor! Drawing 1B Experiments With Pigments

Arts Instructor Alison Frost shares a student-inspired lesson on color.

In Drawing 1B, we began our unit on color by looking at the color wheel. I was explaining to the students how each medium that they use consists of a pigment and a binder, and that each pigment has its own qualities, just like each binder does. One of the students suggested that it might be easier to understand if we could make media in class, and so the lesson was born. 

I brought in earth pigments, which are made primarily from clay found in Armenia, in four different shades. I also brought in the makings for my favorite watercolor binder: gum Arabic, ox gall, honey and glycerin. The students were asked to bring in items from home that could be used as either pigments or binders.  

The students divided into two teams and made my watercolor binder from a recipe I provided. They also experimented with making their own recipes using the same ingredients. The pigments were mostly food-related, with some other plant matter as well. We had some great successes (such as beets and turmeric) and some less successful experiments (not only does broccoli not work as a pigment, it also starts to stink after a few days!). 

The students finished the day by documenting their created pigments, with paint swatches and details of how each was made. They have since done drawings using the watercolors, inks and new types of media (honey-colors, anyone?) in the class.