Methods & Materials

If Heaven will it, thou shalt know that Nature,
Alike in everything, is the same every place.

To produce artwork of a high quality that retains its original luminosity and freshness over time, it is essential to use the best possible materials in our painting. Materials used by ancient craftsmen were not produced in factories as they are today. Instead, following the tradition that had been handed down for generations, from master to pupil, the craftsman would take time to patiently grind each pigment till the right fineness was achieved. Sadly, the knowledge of how this was done in the past has been somewhat obscured and we can no longer find many treatise that detail old recipes for us to follow. The materials the old artists used were closely guarded and kept within a craftsman’s family as trade secrets, shared only with the prized apprentices or practitioners from within the family. Colour and size recipes were an integral part of an artist’s life but the knowledge was kept hidden. Therefore it is vital to document what one can find today, in order to retain some of the high standards of these ancient crafts.

During the course of my PhD research at the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, I experimented with many old recipes, having worked under masters and traditional teachers for many years. This research took me to places like Turkey, Indo-Pakistan and other parts of the Muslim world, and under the guidance of ustads, I was able to draw knowledge from diverse cultures that still retain these past traditions. I incorporated these pigments into my new works, in an attempt to rediscover the potential and symbolic significance of some of these old colours. Working with natural pigments sourced and hand ground from the earth’s flora and fauna, minerals and metals, was really an illuminating experience, as this special connection brought you closer to the Source.
While working primarily on paper it was also important to choose the correct ‘size’ for making the surface smooth and perfect for the pigment to glide on. In this way various methods were practiced from Iran, Turkey and Indo Pakistan, before establishing what worked best for my work. Here I would like to share some images of hand made pigments, in particular gold and lapis lazuli.