Video - Paint making with Cherry Tree Gum and Rose Water - Local, Natural and Eco-friendly Art

doi: 10.4121/bb82c5a6-ef81-47fb-b102-233cd1c91f41.v1
The doi above is for this specific version of this dataset, which is currently the latest. Newer versions may be published in the future. For a link that will always point to the latest version, please use
doi: 10.4121/bb82c5a6-ef81-47fb-b102-233cd1c91f41
Datacite citation style:
Hogeboom-Carvajal Gallardo, Elma (2024): Video - Paint making with Cherry Tree Gum and Rose Water - Local, Natural and Eco-friendly Art. Version 1. 4TU.ResearchData. dataset.
Other citation styles (APA, Harvard, MLA, Vancouver, Chicago, IEEE) available at Datacite

This video shows the wrap-up of my 2nd year of my PhD research. This past year has been all about cherry gum, and making my artistic practice more focused on my local environment. I've been looking for the the way that I recognise paradise in my surroundings, and with that, I have started to notice on a deeper level what can be found in my garden, and nearby parks, or even along the streets of London, on my way to the School of Traditional Arts. 

I think this past year, which I have lovingly named 'the year of the cherry', started unconsciously when reading the book 'The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting' by Daniel V. Thompson. There he describes how in Medieval times anything that looked like gum Arabic (the standard binder to use for making watercolours) would also be called gum Arabic. And as a result also local gums from mainly Prunus-family trees (such as cherry, plum, apricot etc.) were used for making watercolour paints. This intrigued me, because I realised that using cherry gum would mean the next step towards a more holistic approach to art, where I can source things locally and have a more 'closed loop', as well as a more sustainable one. The thing is, that the usual binder for watercolour, which is gum Arabic, comes from the Acacia tree, and this tree doesn't grow in the Netherlands. Thus, I it has to be grown elsewhere and then has to be transported all the way from for example Senegal, causing both the use of (fossil) fuels for transport, as well as the need for packaging. So using local and self-foraged cherry gum would not only connect me more to my art, and make me more connected to the concept of paradise, but it would also mean a small step eco-friendliness. Curiously enough, a few months later, I saw cherry gum in actual use by Lucy from the Old Mill Palnackie in Scotland when I visited a dear friend there, and I think this is the last nudge that I needed. I started looking more intensely at those beautiful cherries that I suddenly noticed all around me, and was hoping to find some cherry gum soon.

Now, I'm not one to willingly harm a cherry tree for a bit of gum, so I was very hesitant to throw myself upon my own cherry tree in fear of causing it harm. And after reading that the production of cherry gum is actually a sign of the tree fighting off an infection, due to for example frost damage that may have damaged the bark, I started looking for damaged trees in my local neighborhood. Then, one day on my way to the School, I passed by some trees, and lo and behold, they were oozing gum from some deep crevices in their bark! Fortunately, I always travel with a pair of tweezers and a ziplock bag in my bag, so I was able to collect plenty to start experimenting.

It took me many rounds and tests to end up with the recipe that I use today. Not in the least, because my bag with my initial paint collection, as well as my first copy of the May cherry from the Tradescant's Orchard manuscript, was stolen in July of 2023. This meant that I had to start all over, and it took me a good while to do all my paintmaking again. Nine colours is a lot, especially if you're like me, and would love to improve the initial recipe, when forced to do so by circumstances.

One of the main twists I made to my initial recipe is that I now added a bit of honey and added rose water to the binder. Not for all colours, as I learnt that different pigments respond to the cherry gum in a different way. Some are drier than others, needing a bit more honey, and others actually benefit from the honey in other ways, because it adds a slight gloss to the resulting paint, making the addition of honey especially beautiful for glazing. The use of honey also reminds me of paradise filled with fruit trees. And rose water... it has become one of my favourite ingredients in paint making over the past two years. 

After making all the paints, as I show you in the middle part of this video, I decided to copy the May cherry from the Tradescant's Orchard again, this time using my new and improved paints, compared to the ones that were stolen. I greatly enjoyed the process, and painting with cherry gum that smelled so heavenly of rose water and honey was a delight in itself.

Gilding the sap of the tree came to me when thinking about the things that we see, and the things that are hidden. So often, we can focus on fruit or blossom, but these are just the signs of life. The real water of life is hidden in the sap of the tree. That made me think of the words of Jesus Christ in the gospel of John, chapter 4, verse 14. The analogy struck me. Inspiration, literally the indwelling of the Spirit of God, from which creation flows. And there I had found my closing line.

  • 2024-07-10 first online, published, posted
King's Foundation School Of Traditional Arts and University of Wales Trinity Saint David


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