For our unit on geology and the rock cycle we grinded some of our own pigments. Eye protectors and dust masks were required – student eyes must be protected and masks were more for modeling lab safety. We ground sulfur rock and two types of clay, red and white to create three pigment colors. The addition of powered ceramic glazes added a number of new colors.
The chemical and physical properties of the pigments were researched as were any health concerns. The main concern was dust if used over prolonged periods by potters. Even thought the health concerns were minimal, students were required to wear dust masks since its good modeling in a science lab.
After viewing Australian Aboriginal paintings and learning about the rock cycle, each student created their own painting using natural pigments. The powered pigments were mixed with an acrylic binders purchased from an art supply store. The canvas was watercolor paper. The students had a choice of a wash with either the red or white clay as the background.
While we got some wonderful images painted, I was hoping for an assessment piece. These paintings didn’t rise to that level – I didn’t show enough examples and support this goal enough – but the project was still worthwhile and can be repeated even more successfully in the future.