Fun with Research

Even as a kid, I loved research projects. Now that I’m writing full time, I still love research. This week, I’m trying something I’ve never done before: Making watercolor paints. 

Let me caveat this by saying, I’m no painter. I can’t even draw a paper bag. However, Mme Louise, the title character in my upcoming novella, The Death of Mme Louise, is a painter; however, she’s just not allowed to paint. Stepping out to purchase paints is not an option. How will she paint if she can’t purchase paints? 

In researching this problem, I found page after page of information on making water paints. Now the fun begins. I’m going to make some watercolor paints and see how well they work. 

1st: I purchased carnations at the grocery store. Yes, I could have re-enacted the artists of old and go around the neighborhood picking my flowers. But seriously, my neighbors wouldn’t like that, and it’s the middle of winter. 

2nd. I ripped the petals and leaves off the flowers and put them into jars. It hurt – destroying perfectly nice flowers, but it’s in the name of art. I then poured boiling water into the jars and left them so seep overnight. The next morning, I strained the petals out of the water and painted. I also added a few drops of vinegar and salt to help the color stay on the page and increase drying time. (One of the few consistent bits of advice I found.)

Photo of flowers and empty jars
Starting with a few flowers and empty jars
Photo of 3 jars filled with water and flower petals
Hot water and, I wait.

3rd. I painted. Told you I wasn’t much of a painter. I painted stripes. By the third coat of paint, I can see color. The leaves provided the least amount of color, but then I had a brainstorm: tea.

You know I’m a green tea junkie, so I brewed a very tiny jar of green tea and black tea. The black tea shows up after only two coats, but it took three of the green tea to put any color on the page.

Photo of page with 3 clear strips of watercolor paints
1 coat of paint and not much color
Photo of same page but with 3 coats of paint
By coat 3, I have easy to see color, except for the color provided by the leaves.
Photo of page with two stripes of watercolor from tea leaves
Tea leaves provide soft green and brown colors

Next step: I paint a picture. That, I’m doing for fun. My research proves Mme Louise could paint with the flowers gathered for her. With her skills, she could create oil-based paints, too, but watercolors are enough for me.

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