January 25th, 2021
Recently, two of our artists have delved further into the worlds of their landscapes by collecting and incorporating material from the earth into their artwork. Encaustic artist Bridgette Meinhold explores abstract landscapes with dyes and inks created from natural materials in her new “Living Inks” watercolor series.
Meanwhile, mixed media artist Sarah Winkler has begun collecting pigments from the landscapes she visits and infusing them into paintings of the very landscape they yield from. We chatted with both artists to discover more about their unique, natural processes.
Bridgette Meinhold was inspired to explore natural inks after reading “Make Ink” by Jason Logan in 2019. “I started making inks about two years ago,” Meinhold remembers, “I began making them from foraged materials, such as kitchen scraps, things found out in the yard, plants collected out on hikes.”
Each ink is made by juicing or boiling down natural material to condense its pigment. Through this process, plant material once large and plentiful enough to fill an entire pot condenses down to the size of a small jar. Once the pigment is condensed into a more saturated liquid, it’s ready to be used as an ink or modified by other elements to alter its color further.
One of the most vivid inks Meinhold creates is from purple cabbage. The bright purple ink created from the natural substance is brilliant all on its own, but add a modifier like vinegar or a solution like copper to the ink, and it drastically changes color. In that way, multiple colors can be derived from the same substance.
“This new series of experimental paintings is an attempt to capture the soul of the mountain west” – Bridgette Meinhold
“Every time I make an ink,” Meinhold notes, “I keep track of the colors that can be made in a book.” Even still, she’s found that over time, whether it be through sunlight or oxidation, these colors continue to evolve over time. Inks created from the same substances just a few months apart can have subtle variations in color. This continual evolution of color lends credence to the idea that these new watercolor works truly act as “living” inks.
Discovering the infinite variety of colors these different modifiers, substances, and changes produce becomes a sort of playful chemistry experiment. Meinhold explains, “for me, it’s more of a play and a curiosity. I follow things that I’m curious about to try to see and understand them better.”
Meinhold often forages for her natural materials on local hikes around Utah. There she collects natural materials such as rabbit brush, elderberry, chokecherry, and more. “Everything always comes back to my connection with nature,” she says, “whether it’s getting closer to nature, being out in nature, or sharing nature.”
Once these locally-sourced materials are transformed into naturally-derived inks, Meinhold then uses the inks to create abstract watercolor landscapes. As Meinhold writes, “This new series of experimental paintings is an attempt to capture the soul of the mountain west through handmade inks and colorful landscape fields.”
Similarly, mixed media artist Sarah Winkler explores the mountain west through pigments she collects on her hikes. This year, Winkler’s started to introduce ground pigment from the landscapes that she visits. “I’ve been collecting crushed minerals such as Wyoming coal, crushed coral, and sandstone from various places,” Winkler says. Of this process, she explains, “I’m going back to the old ways of painting where everything came from earth’s pigment. Back then, a binder was added to your natural pigment and that was your paint.”
Winkler travels with a geology kit so that she can collect these natural materials with greater ease. On hikes, she uses the hammer in her kit to break away and collect rocks. Then back at the studio, she grinds the rocks, crushes them down, and cleans them. Once the rocks are transformed into a fine powder or pigment, Winkler then figures out ways to subtly incorporate these landscape materials back into the paintings of the landscapes from which they’re derived.
“I’m going back to the old ways of painting where everything came from earth’s pigment.” – Sarah Winkler
Gallery MAR artists Bridgette Meinhold and Sarah Winkler have long held a deep affinity and respect for nature, as portrayed through their stunning landscape works. It’s all the more inspiring to see how they’ve deepened this appreciation for nature through their careful curation and incorporation of nature’s bounty into their work. Now, their beautiful landscapes are not only of the earth, but from the earth.
Written by Veronica Vale