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Introduction to Natural Pigments


Join Gunjan Kumar for a guide to the process, material and history of working with natural pigments, both organic and inorganic.

Course Description

This course focuses on working with natural pigments, both organic and inorganic. The basis of study is prehistoric cave paintings that date back between 10,000 and 40,000 years and related schools of Asian art that exemplify traditional pigment painting methods. Natural pigments have a distinct aura and, when mixed with organic binders in varying densities, can be used to create ethereal surfaces. Participants will largely focus on the process of preparing paint out of pigments and natural binders using some of the oldest and archival techniques, and will learn about their application in making art. We will work with natural and naturally derived pigments such as calcium carbonate, powdered clays, oxides, various types of ochers, pine soot, and more. We will also work on different types of natural surfaces along with traditional techniques of paper sizing and mounting. The course includes lectures on important sites of prehistoric cave paintings around the world and derivative processes and materials in related schools of art.

Prior experience in art making is helpful but not necessary. 





Artist Biography

Gunjan Kumar lives and works in Chicago, though she has spent many years traveling through India and other countries in South Asia to observe age-old practices in indigenous textiles, crafts, and various forms of native arts. All of these experiences form the undertone of her art practice. Her process involves ground earth and organic matter used as core mediums, applied on natural surfaces with techniques inspired by traditional methods. The process of her work is particularly influenced by prehistoric cave paintings in Central India that she has been visiting since 2013, and Nihonga, a traditional form of Japanese painting using natural or naturally derived pigments. 
Kumar is a textile graduate from National Institute of Design andTechnology, New Delhi (2003) and holds a bachelor’s degree in economics (honors) from Mehr Chand Mahajan DAV College for Women. She has been a resident artist at the Chicago Art Department, Chicago and a resident fellow at the Edward Albee Foundation, Montauk, NY. Her latest project premiered as a two-person show at the South Asia Institute, Chicago (June 2021) and was exhibited at the National College of Arts, Lahore, Pakistan (November 2021). The works in this project were exhibited in New Delhi, India in April 2022. To know more about the project, please visit this link



Learn more about Gunjan Kumar and her work by visiting her website and checking out her instagram @studies_in_nature.


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Shakerag Workshops of St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School does not discriminate on the basis of race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, or gender.