Mount Amiata Volcanic Natural Pigments Watercolour Set


Much like making gnocchi, where you want as little flour as possible - making good watercolour should involve the bare minimum of ingredients, bypassing fillers and additives, revealing each pigment's own unadulterated expression in colour and texture. It is indeed in the face of declining quality and increased mass manufacture that two artists, Rebecca Wallace and Pip Seymour, began making paints to their own tastes and recipes looking to emulate art materials from the past, with more variable grain and natural appearance.

Produced from the finest ingredients, Sudanese gum arabic and Italian Acacia honey and many rare, unusual and including now defunct pigments, the paint sets presented here are built around a common origin - either geographical place or material compound, to provoke more consideration for pigment, its history and effect in art history, as well as a starting point for artistic exploration of colour. 

Consider the paint set here presented, the single malt of pigments - all collected from Mt Amiata nearby Siena in Tuscany, Italy. Now (and for a long time) a dormant volcano, Mt Amiata was from 1870 until 1980 known for its extraction of Cinnabar. Many of the included colours are conducive to granulation, a phenomenon highly prized by many watercolourists whereby the pigment opens-up and splits adding layers of texture. Recommended for life drawing, preliminary sketch and all in matter of expressive manner.

Material: 5 watercolour 5ml tubes, pigments all from Mt Amiata, Italy.
Included: 5 colours in small cardboard box
Vegetarian: Yes
Vegan: No (contains honey binder)

Each pigment has a special story and has been lovingly been sourced by Rebecca and Pip - here is some background to each colour. 

Cinnabar; a bright, strong vermillion made from crushed Cinnabar 'strawberries' - mineral deposits found at the Tuscan volcano Monte Amiata. This colour was used as the principal red in painting until the 20th century and the introduction of Cadmium red.  NB: Cinnabar is toxic if burnt or ingested. Don’t ingest and wear gloves to avoid contact, use with care by adults only.

Raw Sienna; taking its name from the city of its production during the Renaissance, Siena, this pigment was one of the first used by Humans. This bright, natural Sienna was produced in the 1970s, close to its Renaissance namesake at Bagnoli, a Tuscan village in the shadow of Monte Amiata. It is transparent with high tinting strength and a gentle granulation when used as a wash.

Burnt Sienna; formed by heating Raw Sienna, this redder, slightly darker counterpart to the above is also made from finite stocks from the 1970's, again with a high tinting strength and gentle granulation. 

Terra Rosa 'La Vena'; a gentle pink-orange clay, collected from the Sesti Vineyard in the south of Tuscany after which it is carefully washed and sieved. It has a very good transparency and good granulation. 

Vine Charcoal, Waning Moon; this deep black pigment is carefully harvested according to the phases of the moon as part of a long standing collaboration between Wallace Seymour and the Italian Sesti Vineyard. After the wine harvest, at the waning moon, the vines are cut back; this is when there is the maximum levels of sap which produces the strongest colour when charred. A true speciality!

Illustration courtesy of Claire Fletcher