Natural Ochre Pigments for Watercolors

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Natural Ochre Pigments for Watercolors

There’s an incredible ochre mine in the Vaucluse region of Provence. On a recent trip, fellow workshop attendees and I walked around Roussillon and marveled at the color of the soil. The earthen cliffs in late afternoon sun are a solar flare of orange against foliage and sky. I had to shop there, so I could return to California with Natural Ochre Pigments for Watercolors

The ochre cliffs at Roussillon in Provence, France.

Natural Ochre Pigment

Many of the buildings in the village are burnt orange or red, instead of the usual Provence beige or gray stucco. At a distance, the color of the architecture looks as though Roussillon sprouted from the soil. It’s a lovely nod towards their ochre mining history.

Roussillon, erupting from the red soil cliffs

Provence Art Inspiration

Shops sell linen table cloths, printed in bold patterns with olives, vines and the summertime singers – provencal cicada bugs. The cicadas are also sold as clay or bronze figurines to perch in your garden for good luck, or lavender oil-infused soaps.

A few small stores offer jars of dry pigment, with instructions for mixing the powders with mediums to use as watercolors, acrylics or oil paints.

36 powdered pigments with instructions to create watercolor, acrylic or oil paints on the back of the box
Here is some history and uses for natural pigments like Yellow Ochre in your watercolor paintings

Yellow Ochre Pigment

One of my favorite watercolor pigments is yellow ochre. Here’s a short video (above), with color mixing samples, and a history of the pigment.

Roussillon was the first ochre mine where large-scale pigment manufacturing was developed by the Scientist Jean-Étienne Astier in the late 1700’s. (There are other ochre mines in the U.S., Africa, Spain, Russia, New Zealand, etc.)

Playing with landscape studies in watercolor using my watercolor sketchpad

Art Travel and Workshops

Travel to foreign places, whether for a workshop, or exploration, gives two immediate gifts; the immersion in a world of unfamiliar, and the distant view perspective of life back at home. After traveling, I return with observations about my life as it is now, seen through the lens of a backwards telescope. This trip fueled me for the rest of the year with inspiration, perspective and goals.

What impact does travel and exploration have on your studio and art-making mojo?

Thanks for visiting today, and I’ll see you in the next post –


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Study for Roussillon 16 x 5 watercolor in a moleskine sketch pad

Art Quote

May we never let the things we can’t have, or don’t have, or shouldn’t have, spoil our enjoyment of the things we do have and can have. As we value our happiness let us not forget it.
For one of the greatest lessons in life is learning to be happy without the things we cannot or should not have.

Richard Evans

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5 thoughts on “Natural Ochre Pigments for Watercolors”

  1. Yellow Ochre is one of my favorites 🙂 And that set of dry pigments! Wow, amazing!… I´d love to get in touch in Periscope but don´t have an account and don´t know if I can in my computer as my tablet simply died one day. I´ll find out 😉 Thank you Belinda it´s a fantastic post and video. Welcome back!! <3

    1. Hi Marissa,
      Thanks for your note. I clink my yellow ochre colored coffee mug to yours in pigment-appreciation! The periscope call out is a little dated, and I’m not really using it these days. Social media is so fleeting. Learn one, and them boom, it fades into less effective, and you move on to learn the next one. The place I’m most active these days is Instagram, so if you have an account there, follow me and I’ll see you and follow back. I hope you get a new tablet for couch surfing after hours. 🙂

  2. Bonjour chère amie,

    Un lieu, une région que je connais si bien…
    Très jolie publication. Votre oeuvre est magnifique. J’aime les nuances de couleurs.

    Gros bisous ?

    1. Bonjour, Martine!
      C’est toujours sympa d’obtenir une note de votre part! Vos villes sont merveilleuses, et je suis tellement inspiré par toute la beauté. Merci pour tes compliments!

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