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Archive for the '#ColourandPoetry' Category

A Colour A Day: Week 40

Ruth Siddall27 December 2020

A Colour A Day: Week 40. 21st-27th December

Jo Volley writes…

This weeks colours are accompanied by Marge Piercy’s poem Colors passing through us.

Purple as tulips in May, mauve
into lush velvet, purple
as the stain blackberries leave
on the lips, on the hands,
the purple of ripe grapes
sunlit and warm as flesh.

Every day I will give you a color,
like a new flower in a bud vase
on your desk. Every day
I will paint you, as women
color each other with henna
on hands and on feet.

Red as henna, as cinnamon,
as coals after the fire is banked,
the cardinal in the feeder,
the roses tumbling on the arbor
their weight bending the wood
the red of the syrup I make from petals.

Orange as the perfumed fruit
hanging their globes on the glossy tree,
orange as pumpkins in the field,
orange as butterflyweed and the monarchs
who come to eat it, orange as my
cat running lithe through the high grass.

Yellow as a goat’s wise and wicked eyes,
yellow as a hill of daffodils,
yellow as dandelions by the highway,
yellow as butter and egg yolks,
yellow as a school bus stopping you,
yellow as a slicker in a downpour.

Here is my bouquet, here is a sing
song of all the things you make
me think of, here is oblique
praise for the height and depth
of you and the width too.
Here is my box of new crayons at your feet.

Green as mint jelly, green
as a frog on a lily pad twanging,
the green of cos lettuce upright
about to bolt into opulent towers,
green as Grand Chartreuse in a clear
glass, green as wine bottles.

Blue as cornflowers, delphiniums,
bachelors’ buttons. Blue as Roquefort,
blue as Saga. Blue as still water.
Blue as the eyes of a Siamese cat.
Blue as shadows on new snow, as a spring
azure sipping from a puddle on the blacktop.

Cobalt as the midnight sky
when day has gone without a trace
and we lie in each other’s arms
eyes shut and fingers open
and all the colors of the world
pass through our bodies like strings of fire.

Colours are from the Liquitex Soft Body Acrylic range on W&N watercolour paper and read from left to right:

Bright Aqua Green
Vivid Orange
Naphthol Crimson
Yellow Orange Azo
Permanent Light Green
Permanent Dark Green

A Colour A Day: Week 35

Ruth Siddall22 November 2020

A Colour A Day: Week 35. 16th – 22nd November

Jo Volley writes …

‘We had a remarkable sunset one day last November. I was walking in a meadow, the source of a small brook, when the sun at last, just before setting, after a cold gray day, reached a clear stratum in the horizon, and the softest, brightest morning sunlight fell on the dry grass and on the stems of the trees in the opposite horizon and on the leaves of the shrub oaks on the hillside, while our shadows stretched long over the meadow east-ward, as if we were the only motes in its beam. It was such a light as we could not have imagined a moment before, and the air also was so warm and serene that nothing was wanting to make a paradise of that meadow. When we reflected that this was not a solitary phenomenon, never to happen again, but that it would happen forever and ever, an infinite number of evenings, and cheer and reassure the latest child that walked there, it was more glorious still.’

Extract from ‘Walking’ by Henry David Thoreau, 1862
(for J.S)

Pigments manufactured by Ruth Siddall, bound in gum Arabic on W&N watercolour paper, and read from left to right:

Weld & Calcium Carbonate Lake
Annatto Lake
Safflower Carthamidin Lake
Eosin Lake #1 & Annatto Lake 50:50 mix
Eosin Chalk Lake
Geranium Lake
Eosin Lake #1

A Colour A Day: Week 19

Ruth Siddall2 August 2020

A Colour A Day – Week 19.  27th July-2nd August

Jo Volley writes…..

This week we celebrate the last seven FA Cup finals using the predominant colour worn by the winning team on the day. The FA Cup is the world’s oldest football competition, the first games played in the autumn of 1871, the same year as the Slade School was established. Arsenal have won the cup a record 14 times. 🏆

Each colour can be found in the Liquitex Soft Body Acrylic range and is on W&N watercolour paper.


A Colour A Day: Week 13

Ruth Siddall21 June 2020

A Colour A Day Week 13; 15th – 21st June
Jo Volley writes….
This week’s feature of 7 greys also  includes the poem Penumbra  by artist and poet, Sharon Morris,  from her collection False Spring, Enitharmon Press, 2007.  Sharon is a Professor at the Slade School of Fine Art.


Your shadow has fallen on me
like the fig tree
in its profusion

and I am left
chasing your image
as the sun drops

into occlusion, you
running with that cusp of light
against disappearance,

my tears
wanting to make your face haptic
from its shroud.


Colours read from left to right and are painted out onto W&N watercolour paper:

  1. Galena
  2. Bone grey (JV/12)
  3. Graphite
  4. Neutral grey
  5. Payne’s grey
  6. Ash grey (JV/20)
  7. Melser Grau

A Colour A Day: Week 8

Ruth Siddall17 May 2020

Jo Volley writes….

A COLOUR A DAY – Week 8; 11th – 17th  May

This week’s colours are from the sea and to accompany them you can hear Janet Baker singing ‘Where Corals Lie’. The music is from  Edward Elgar’s Sea Pictures, words by Richard Garnett.

The deeps have music soft and low
When winds awake the airy spry,
It lures me, lures me on to go
And see the land where corals lie.
The land, the land, where corals lie.

  1. Cuttlefish
  2. Oyster shell
  3. Tyrian Purple
  4. Squid
  5. Coral
  6. Pearl
  7. Octopus


A Colour A Day: Week 1

Ruth Siddall30 March 2020

A Colour A Day is a year-long project to celebrate one colour each day by recording a swatch of it.

International Colour Day and World Pigment Day fall respectively on the 21st and 22nd of March. The project started on 23rd March which was coincidentally also the day lockdown began in the UK.

It has begun with the Liquitex Heavy Body Cadmium Free range of 7 colours, as seen here,  and tomorrow will progress onto a range of natural colours.

Jo Volley, 30 March 2020

Day 1. Yellow Light

Day 2. Yellow Medium

Day 3. Yellow Deep

Day 4. Orange

Day 5. Red Light

Day 6. Red Medium

Day 7. Red Deep

Pigment Stories: Polly Bennett’s Pigment Rainbow

Ruth Siddall23 March 2020

Yesterday (22 March 2020) we launched the inaugural World Pigment Day. There was an huge amount of engagement on social media and particularly on Instagram. Over the next few days I will be sharing images and pigment stories from people who posted to celebrate World Pigment Day. First up is artist Polly Bennett, a resident of St Ives in Cornwall, who contributed a series of posts on the colours of the Rainbow. Over to Polly …

Red: Cinnabar Cinnabar is a toxic mercury sulfide mineral that has been used as a pigment for thousands of years due to its bright red colour. It is a pigment in its own right, however, it was also used to make the red pigments known as “vermilion” and “Chinese red”. Cinnabar is a hydrothermal mineral that is usually found in rocks surrounding recent volcanic activity but can also form near hot springs and fumaroles (an opening in or near a volcano). Because of cinnabar’s toxicity, it is a lot less commonly used nowadays.

Orange: Ochre Ochre is a family of earth pigments that includes yellow ochre, red ochre, purple ochre, sienna, and umber. It consists of varying amounts of iron oxide, clay and sand, and ranges in colour from yellow to deep orange or brown with an array of shades inbetween. I have found huge amounts of ochre earth in St Ives, where I am currently staying, and have been slowly but surely grinding and separating the ochre into different shades. The mineral goethite, an iron oxide hydroxide and the main constituent of most yellow ochres, is named after Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the colour scientist whose death marks the date of World Pigment Day

Yellow: Sulphur Although Sulphur is not a pigment, I found some in a curio shop and was curious to see if it ground into a powder; would it work in the same way?  So I intend to turn it into watercolour and test it out. Historically it has been used to bleach cloth, so it might do something similar when applied over the top of other watercolours. Sulphur occurs naturally as the element, often in volcanic areas, and as the extraction of pigments is very alchemical, I thought it was interesting to note that for centuries, along with mercury and salt, it was believed to be a component of all metals and formed the basis of alchemy, whereby one metal could be transmuted into another.

Green: Green Earth from St Ives Yesterday I was super excited to find a little green sparkly rock on the eroded foreshore. I set about grinding it down and managed to get two shades of green from it, the darker one I immediately made into watercolour.



Blue: Azurite Azurite is a soft copper mineral, named for its beautiful “azure blue” colour. It has been ground and used as a pigment in blue paint as early as ancient Egypt, and through time, its become much more common. During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, it was the most important blue pigment used in Europe, and through the early 19th century, it was also known as chessylite, after the type locality at Chessy-les-Mines near Lyon, France, where much of the pigment was mined. Here I have mullered the Azurite into glaze.

Indigo: Mussel Shell Blue from St Ives Since landing in St Ives I have been going down to the foreshore every morning to collect mussel shells as I wanted to create a blue pigment to represent the sea, however after being ground the mussels create a light indigo colour that I love! Historically painters used shells as paint pans, so I thought it very appropriate to make watercolour paint with the mussel pigment and use one of the mussel shells as the pan for the paint.

Violet: Cochineal Cochineal is a bright scarlet insect lake pigment that has been used for centuries to dye textiles, drugs, food and cosmetics. A lake pigment is a pigment made by precipitating a dye with a mordant. Unlike mineral pigments, lake pigments are organic.Cochineal is the result of harvesting the female cochineal parasitic insect that live on the cacti native to Mexico, Central and South America. Using soda ash and alum, I extracted the pigment from the insects and added honey and gum arabic to make watercolour.

Follow Polly on Instagram.


Photoblog: Colour and Poetry and The Nomenclature of Colours

Ruth Siddall22 March 2019

A a cross- and interdisciplinary event at the UCL Slade School of Fine Art to celebrate International Colour Day and World Poetry Day took place on 20th and 21st March 2019. This included all things colourful and poetic and often both, from talks, poetry readings, to making and mixing pigments, and looking at images in the accompanying exhibition The Nomenclature of Colours.

The symposium was conceived and organised by Jo Volley of the Slade School and the exhibition The Nomenclature of Colours was curated by Jo and Stephanie Nebbia. The photos used here were taken by Gabriela Giroletti and Ruth Siddall.

The full programme is available here.


Speakers talking about colour and research were; Michael Berkowitz, Malina Busch, Jane Bustin, Mark Cann, David Dobson, Taylor Enoch, Roland-Francois Lack, Liz Lawes, Andy LeakAntoni Malinowski, Onya McCausland, Dimitris Mylonas, Ruth Siddall, Henrietta Simson, Estelle Thompson and Edward Winters.

The poets who read from their work were Mataio Austin Dean, Rhun Jones, Sharon Morris, Fabian Peake and George Szirtes. Caroline de Lannoy‘s ‘Colour Tale’ was performed by Caroline and Slade School students, the ‘Colour Tale Choristers’.

David Dobson, Ian Rowlands and Jo Volley demonstrated making and mixing pigments.

Looking at Josef Albers’s silk screen prints from the Slade’s edition of Interaction of Colour in a talk and discussion led by Malina Busch.

An exhibition of pigments in the Material Museum curated by Jo Volley.