Gum Arabic has long been the standard binder when making watercolor paints, and the formula you provide is reasonable. I have not used clove oil since it is only a weak preservative, but I would not expect that 3 drops in a liter of water would create much problem on a carragheenan size. Gum Arabic is expensive, so the volume of binder you prepare should be reduced : 60 grams in 200 ml water should give you ample binder to start with. Glycerin is a plasticizer, used to reduce caking and cracking in watercolor paints. It is not needed when preparing colors for marbling as long as you do not let your paints dry out.
Since a gum arabic binder is recommended, I assume that what you have are pigments rather than dyes. Dyes are completely soluble in water and a binder would not be used for these (nor do dyes work well for marbling since they dissolve into the size rather than float on the top of the size). Pigments are not soluble and the use of a binder (and mulling) helps to ensure adequate dispersion of the pigment throughout the paint mixture, otherwise the pigment particles will be more attracted to each other and will clump rather than spread out into a uniform layer of paint on the size.
The directions for making the paints is also standard. If your pigments are in a fine powder form I suggest that you place a small amount on a marble of plate glass slab (it is best to have a roughened surface either sand blasted or roughened up with fine carborundum grit). I recommend using a scale to measure out pigment amounts and I would recommend 10 grams of pigment. Place this on the glass and add to it small amounts of binder, gently mixing with a palette knife until you have a paste (adding a eye dropperful of brandy can help with wetting the pigment). Once you have a paste, you can add small amounts of distilled water to thin it out to a consistency that will permit smooth mulling of the paint (not too liquid). Using the muller, go back and forth over the paste in a circular or figure of 8 motion until the paint is smooth and not gritty. Periodically scrape the paint toward the center of the glass and off the edges of the muller to ensure everything is equally blended. Once you have a satisfactory consistency, scrape up all the paint and place it in a tight-fitting, covered, small jar or container to keep the paints from drying out. With minimal preservative, I would recommend storing these paints in the refrigerator.
If your pigments are not in fine powder form, you may need to break them down first using a mortar and pestle.
Safety is extremely important when making paints, particularly when you do not know exactly what the pigments are or how they were made. Some "natural" pigments have significant toxicity. Always wear a particle mask and gloves (even eye protection if you are breaking up pigment), work in a well-aerated area (but free from drafts to keep the pigment dust down), and clean up well and carefully afterward.
Pigments are readily available and you could purchase some to try before trying your own (Sinopia, which markets Kremer pigments is based in California).
Aluming papers is still advisable. It has been my experience that most western papers do not have sufficient absorbency to enable acceptable marbling without alum, regardless of the type of pigments.
To use the paints for marbling, use 1/4 teaspoonful of paint mixed in 1 tablespoonful of distilled water.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, January 07, 2008 6:42 AM
Subject: [Marbling] Marbling with natural pigments (earth and vegetal)
Hoping some of the learned members can help me with this.
I have by absolute luck been given as a gift some dyes made by a man
who has been reviving the art of making vegetal dyes in his home town
in Turkey. He does not speak any English and I know enough Turkish to
say good day, thank you and bathroom.
I have this formula for Gum Arabic.
Gum Arabic Preparation
* 300 grams (10.5 oz) Gum Arabic powder
* 3 drops Clove Oil
* 1 liter (2.1 pints) of boiled water
The ratio is 1 part gum to 2 parts water. Boil water and pour over the
powdered gum, stirring to make sure there are no lumps. Add drops of
Clove Oil to retard spoilage. Allow the mixture to soak 24-48 hours
for full absorption.
Question 1: Is the clove oil going to react with the size I use,
* Prepared Gum solution (Arabic or Tragacanth)
Mix all the ingredients and crush them on a glass plate using a
spatula to obtain a paste with a thick, creamy consistency. It is
recommended that you finish the mixture by crushing it with a glass
muller (available at art supply stores). Transfer your paints to
saucers for painting. When creating your initial gum, you may wish to
add Glycerin as a plasticizer to prevent cracking and brittleness. The
ratio would be 1 part Glycerin or less by volume to 5 parts of your
prepared gum solution. Add the Glycerin after gum has been completely
dissolved but while still warm.
Question 2: Now they are saying to add "Glycerin" to the gum. Is that
in addition to the "Clove Oil"?
Also, while it does make sense to want a spoilage retardant, do I
really need the plasticizer? Also, glycerin is hard to find in the Bay
Has anyone ever used these methods?
As I don't want to waste any of these precious powders, I will wait to
hear from the experts. After the experiment, I will post my results.
I plan to mordant the paper with alum anyway. Although, at some point
after I master the dyes I may want to go without mordanting.
Thanks in advance for your help.
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