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Foraging for Yellow Ochre

I won't tell you where to go, but it is very likely if you keep your eyes open you will find some yellow ochre in your part of the world before too long. Soft sources are best, something that crumbles in your fingers, something that you can scratch with your fingernail. The softer it is the easier to grind for processing into pigment.

Roadcuts, like the one pictured here, are my favorite gathering sites. They are heavily disturbed areas. Gathering a little ochre won't impact the environment here in a negative way. There is no need to climb the hill. Usually gravity does the work for you and there will be plentiful chunks of earth at the bottom.

Before gathering think of the size of a half pan of paint. Think about how long that paint lasts you. A thumb sized chunk of ochre can make a lot of pigment for personal use.

This is the yellow ochre I use in Strata Ink's Chamisa Ochre ink and the yellow ochre I use when teaching my classes about making mineral watercolors with pigments gathered in Oregon. This amount of ochre will last me a long time. Processing this clay into pigment by hand will also take me a long time. I'll grind it up in my mortar and pestle and clean it in small batches as needed. The final photo shows the yellow ochre being mulled into paint, but there are a lot of stages (and labor) in between.

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