Sunday, April 24th, 2016

A little history about pigment, paint and dye

Pigments used in paint and pigments used in dyes have overlapped at various times in history.

The Forbes pigment collection  at the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University has over 2,500 specimens. It’s mostly used for scientific analysis for verifying paintings and checking authenticity.


The oldest forms of paint were pure pigment. Ochre was used from cave paintings to Ancient Greece. Black is straightforward to produce in the form of charcoal from the fire.

Different forms of paint are made with different types of binders. Egg tempera is made with pigment, egg, and clear alcohol. It dates to the Middle Ages and was used to illuminate manuscripts. These days it’s most commonly used to make Greek Orthdox icons. The one time I had the chance to try the technique, I had codeine in my system and I got tipsy off the vodka fumes. Whoops!

Oil paint became popular in Europe in the 15th century. It had been used in India and China much earlier. While various oils have been used over the years, I understand that most modern oils are based on linseed oil.

The specific pigment plus the specific binder will affect the chemical composition. Some have very specific timelines. In 1826 synthetic ultramarine was discovered as the result of a competition. Natural ultramarine was rare and therefore expensive.


Madder was used as both a dye and a paint pigment. It’s a plant based red which needs a mordent to set it to cloth. Lots of onion skins can produce a pale brown through the same dye process.

Modern dyeing processes can be toxic and dangerous.  A some Australian textile artists specialise in Natural dyeing including Belinda Evans, Myf Walker, Belinda Sheekly and many others. Most of these artists are interested in the ecologically friendly but usually mordent still has to be used. Mordents include alum, iron, copper and tannin, and all except for tannin need to be disposed off carefully.

Sunday, February 28th, 2016

Why being a tortured artist won’t make your art better


Every culture or subculture has its clichés. The tortured artist is one of those clichés.

I have the tortured background of the artist clichés. I was emotionally abused by my mum growing up. I was diagnosed with learning disabilities at eight. I probably had my generalised anxiety disorder from childhood. By fifteen I had depression. I have a binge eating disorder (not bulimia). At nineteen I had a bad fall and glandular fever. That was was the beginning of my physical chronic illness. By twenty-four I had rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.

I can make art about all these subjects but it is doesn’t make it better art. Only practice makes art better.

Suffering from chronic mental and physical illnesses stops me being a more productive artist. A productive artist is one who is going to improve the quality of their art. Admittedly at this stage of my career if I wasn’t physically chronically ill I’d have a day job taking up time. But jobs usually take set hours. Illness is utterly unpredictable.

The art at the beginning of this post is called “Anxiety”. It’s inspired by my generalised anxiety disorder. I have previously made a piece on depression. Everyone experiences stress. It stops the human race from descending into complete apathy. In most people it is part of a healthy mental landscape. Generalised anxiety disorder means you never stop worrying, even if it is in the back of your mind. It cracks across your logic and common sense. When it is brought to the forefront of your mind it can be paralysing. I sometimes have panic attacks at this point but that is panic disorder which is a different anxiety disorder.

If any of the symptoms described sound familiar please seek help. Or contact me for a chat. Treatment will make you a better person and a better artist. Treatment doesn’t have to include medications.


Anxiety Recovery Centre Victoria
Anxiety Treatment Australia
National Alliance of Mental Illness
Anxiety and Depression Association of America – Depression
Anxiety and Depression Association of America – generalised anxiety disorder
American Psychological Association
Psychology Today

NHS Stress, Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety UK
Anxiety Care Uk

Sunday, February 7th, 2016

My tools for acrylic painting


I paint sitting down on my bed with the canvas in front of me. I keep a drop sheet over my bedclothes. I use a large rectangular palette rather than a more traditional shape. It either ends up sitting beside me or on a dry bit of canvas. It also has a lid so paint can be kept wet for up to a few days.

Two tubes of acrylic paint


I prefer Derivan Matisse for my paint. It’s an Australian brand of cheap artist grade paint. The artist grade bit is important, it means it has more pigment than student grade paint. Derivan Matisse has two lines of acrylic paint in 75 ml tubes called “Flow” and “Structure”. I usually buy structure because I want my paint to behave in a consistent manner. Structure is a thick paint designed to be easy to create texture on ground. Flow is meant to be runny.

Antique White

I buy cheap canvases too. I then gesso them and paint a layer of Antique White. Sometimes it becomes an undercoat, sometimes the background.

Brushes, palette knife, roller

Brushes etc

I use my straight palette knife, a roller and my one inch brush to apply gesso and my background colour. The remainder I do my actual painting with. There are three main types of brushes on the market Sable, Fake Sable and Acrylic brushes. At this point in time I couldn’t tell you why I prefer acrylic brushes any more than I could tell you why I like the colour blue.

Spray can of wood varnish

Wood varnish

I use a polymer based wood vanish to finish my paintings rather than an acrylic medium. My experience with mediums has been that some colours run when painted over particularly those on the blue spectrum.

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

Aset Arises

Aset finished 2

It’s finished. Last Kemetic New Year (August 2014), Aset told me she wanted me to paint a portrait of her by August 2015. I didn’t make the deadline but she was pleased with what I learnt from the experience. This is the first portrait I’ve done, it’s also the biggest painting I’ve done to date (100 cm x 75 cm). I also learnt that out of the Royal context Aset can be about Sovereignty over self.

Sunday, July 5th, 2015

Aset in Gold

The most obvious change to “Aset, Goddess of Sovereignty” is that I’ve added her gold dress and the hieroglyph on her head. I’ve also extended the wings and the under painting for her cleavage. I have to go over that last area again because mixing burnt umber and titanium white in exact amounts is difficult.

Other than that the remaining work is details. Her facial features, stylised feathers for the wings, and details for the background.

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

Aset WIP

I’m working on a painting called “Aset, Goddess of Sovereignty”. Aset is the Goddess of Sovereignty from Ancient Egypt. The Greeks called her Isis. I’ve started to block in some of the main areas. The wings aren’t staying black although I’ve drawn her twin Nebt-Het with black wings.

Aset sketch

This is the initial sketch for the painting. The dress hasn’t been done on the painting because unlike the sketch, I want to paint the dress in gold. I needed to buy a tube of gold paint at the time of painting.

Quick note on names

I don’t use the Greek names. I follow the Ancient Egyptian gods to as they were understood in Pharaonic Egypt (I don’t even really like calling it Egypt that’s from the Greek too). When the Greeks came they melded their gods with the local gods. Most Ancient Egyptian goddesses are solar. The Greeks made them lunar. When Aset became Isis, she went from being a powerful woman who was also a magician and had chutzpah to being a cuddly mother figure. She had always produced, cared for and protected Heru-Sa-Aset but that was part of her role in ensuring Set was deposed following the death of Wesir (Osiris).

Friday, May 29th, 2015

Earth Mandala WIP

Art is going crawling slow. My fatigue is high. I think I spent April and May burning the candle at both ends. Extra medical appointments and far too many family birthdays. This mandala is small, 10″ x 10″. The others were done as what passes for quickly for me, limited by my schedule, my bodies reaction to that schedule and how fast the paint would dry. Two or three sessions with the paint. I’ve already done that with this mandala. I do have some interesting new ideas when I’m better.


Friday, April 24th, 2015

Water Mandala

Water Mandala (c) Anita Morris 2014

Water Mandala (c) Anita Morris 2014

I painted this last year but didn’t blog it. The initial design has just the circular motif without the cup. I added the cup because without it the whole thing looked like a blueberry boiled lolly. The cup motif also represents water in the tarot.

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Wind Mandala

I’m doing a series focusing on the Four Elements. Each is a mandala in acrylics on a small canvas 10″ x 10″ (25 x 25 cm). The wind mandala is the first finished. I’ve started the water mandala. The idea of the the four elements date back to Ancient Greece and have been adopted in the modern world by such communities as the Neo-Pagan, the New Agers and the Occult community. Mandalas are a device to aid meditation and are found in religions around the world including Buddhism.

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Society has always been influenced by Queers

I’ve finished my first painting. It’s called “Society has always been influenced by Queers” (International readers please note Queers is an acceptable way to refer to the LGBTI community in Australia. It is a reclaimed word.) It was inspired by a Judy Small song called “Influenced by Queers”. The first verse goes:

You see them on the television,
hear them on the radio.
Read it in the magazines,
it’s ev’rywhere you go.
I don’t care what people do behind the locks of bedroom door.
private there is nobody’s affair but your’s.
But there’s a line that must be drawn in order to avoid the tears.
And I don’t want my children being influenced by queers

Try here to listen to the song. The rest of the song has examples of famous Queers many of whom are historical. Judy Small is a lesbian who was a professional folk singer and lawyer for the day job. She now sits on the (Australian) federal bench.

Why do I care about this? I identify as sapiosexual – someone who is attracted to people of intelligence on all points of the gender spectrum. If that’s too complicated bisexual will do.

The underlying structure of the painting is based on how I understand cities over time. Cities build on the past and on the rubble of demolished buildings. The symbolism of the rainbow flag is obvious.

All content © Copyright 2016 by Anita Morris.
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