Pigment Trip

This weekend I travelled to the Oregon coast, near Brookings. The sights are spectacular, and so are the mineral deposits!

[Looking north from Cape Sebastian]

[Cape Sebastian]

As I explored the beaches and hiking trails, I almost immediately found what I was looking for – stones that can be ground up for pigments. On the beach I found one piece of a stone that I know very well from my time in San Francisco. It’s a step in the process of creating serpentine. At this stage, it’s a soft soapstone. There are some places where this is the hardest material in hillsides made of blue clay. They’re all just stages in the process – clay turns to soapstone which turns to serpentine which, I hear, eventually turns into jade. Finding one of these stones perked up my senses to see if I could spot the area where it this beautiful blue-green came from.

[One chunk of serpentine soapstone on the beach]

Well, I didn’t have to look far. Here’s a photo of a hillside right next to the road, just a minute’s drive from that beach. Yes, that’s a reflection of the car dash in the sky. And yes, the hillside really was just that blue.

[Myers Flat serpentine clay deposit]

When I stopped to scoop up some of that amazing clay, I took a little two-hour jaunt down the beach and found a whole hillside that was made of iron-rich sediment layers. These were tumbling down to the beach, yielding all different colors of ochre.

[Myers Flat hillside shot through with ochre]
Here’s a creek I had to wade across as I walked down the beach. Look at those colors!

[Creek with jaspers, serpentines, and ochres]
There’s another stone that caught my attention. We have slate in my part of the state, but it’s a darker black and much more difficult to powder. This stone looks like it will yield a rich grey and take no time at all to powder.

[Slate is powdering itself]
There were other deposits that simply taunted me. Here is the most vibrant orange I’ve ever seen come from the ground. And it was ready-to-use, being a clay instead of a stone.

[Orange clay]
But, alas, there was only one tiny piece of it in an otherwise brown landscape. Can’t win them all, eh? Maybe one day I’ll find a place where this gorgeous color is the predominant feature.

[One speck of orange in a field of brown]

Next, I’ll have to start labelling and storing these stones so that I can remember where the colors came from when I use them in my art. Then, it’s time to powder a few of them up and see what I get. I can’t wait to see how that blue-green works in an ink!

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