I’ve never been a huge fan of green. As Dad says, “Green is what happens when you’re doing something else.” I presume he means doing something else with blue and yellow.
Verdigris "rust" on some kind of copper or bronze fixture.
The green pigments I’ve been able to afford are quiet earth colors just a step or two away from gray. In other words, boring. But I was listening to the incredibly diverting At Home, Bill Bryson’s newest and learned something about how to make green pigment. Do yourself a flavor and get the audio book. Bill is a perfect reader—soft-spoken and funny. No one delivers a line like “…and he died, obscure and penniless, a broken man,” with more vaudevillian regret. In this text, Bill describes how the ancients made verdigris, the basis of green.
It’s simple. Take some copper and suspend it over a vat of horse dung and vinegar. The copper will corrode, like it does on your arm when you wear a copper bracelet. Scrape the green “rust” off and there is it. A Google search reveals that horse dung is just the beginning. Lots of people prefer using their own urine, and in fact there was some discussion at Winestock the other night about how common this is. Mind you, the discussion was among men, and I was faintly disgusted.
Here’s an image of a work in a series by Andy Warhol from 1978 called Oxidation. The Theory tells me this series was created in just this way, with urine:
Andy Warhol, Oxidation Paintings. 1978. Acrylic ground, copper metalic paint, urine on canvas.
Here is a lovely description of the final result:
“For all the conjecture surrounding why Warhol made these somewhat perverse works, one is left, in the final analysis, with objects of extraordinary beauty. The present example is one of the largest Warhol ever ‘made’, possessing the same qualities one finds in Oriental screens. Indeed, a Zen-like serenity pervades the surface, quite at odds, one can imagine, with their creation One can see the paintings as ethereal landscapes, or portraits of micro-organisms, wildly amplified Whichever way one looks at them, the Oxidation Paintings remain Warhol’s most economic works and some of his most elegant compositions.”
I found this text on a restricted area of the Georgetown University web site (it came up in a Google keyword search, so how restricted could it be?) and there was no author given. Go here to read the entire the article which also includes some entertaining notes on who did what.
Addendum: The Theory used his mad skills to glean more information about the article quoted above: “The author is Martin Irvine of Georgetown U. Teaches contemporary art theory and visual culture. He is quoting an exhibition catalog from Piss & Sex Paintings and Drawings, from Gagosian (NYC, Madison Avenue). Catalog essay was by Bruce Hainley. Exhibition dates September/November, 2002. Catalog is out of print.”
(While this not a proper citation, I express my thanks to both Georgetown University and the Gagosian Gallery for the link.)
While I really hope NOT to use my or anyone else’s bodily products, verdigris seems like a worthy Hive experiment. The Theory checked pH levels of various household compounds and discovered that very close to the top, just after battery acid (1.0 pH), was lime juice (1.8 to 2.0), followed by lemon juice (2.2 to 2.4) and vinegar (2.2). Go here to check pH values of other interesting household items.
Bits of copper salvaged from other projects.
I took some bits and pieces of copper and put half in white vinegar and half in concentrated lemon juice. Both solutions were warmed and soaked in paper towels with the copper bits arranged on top. The lime juice I set aside for my gin and tonic constitutional. Check back later to see how my verdigris experiment is progressing.
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