Rosalind Whitman


In order to create re-workings from prototypes by early masters as part of my programme of research, a further exercise is called for in relation to the preparation of the materials required. This is where a strong resemblance to alchemical operations and procedures begins to make itself felt, and a fundamental appreciation of the process is involved.

1. Making Verdigris pigment from copper

Finding out how to prepare a wooden panel with gesso; how to mix egg tempera and ornament the work with gold leaf; how to extract colours such as azurite, malachite and vermilion from rocks; how to use and combine different coloured earths in one’s palette; how to obtain lakes and dyes from plants, such as buckthorn berries, madder and indigo; and how to grind and blend raw pigments with different oils and resins sympathetic to them, these exercises and initiations opened my eyes to a completely new experience of practice. This experience and knowledge connected me both to the natural origins of the materials at my disposal and the cultural origins of their transformation.

I have my teacher and lecturer the artist, Dr David Cranswick to thank for the inspirational way in which he introduced me to these “secrets” during a course which began by acknowledging the correlation perceived by alchemists between planets and ores.