Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Painting the Milky Way!

We have a superabundance of fresh cows’ milk, thanks to generous LaFonda. Even though we are milk sharing with her calf (whom I estimate is drinking about 2 gallons per day) we are getting about 4 gallons a day, about 20% of which is cream. Our wonderful WWOOfer Lynette has dived into learning cheesemaking and is making about one small wheel a day - manchego, gouda, romano, parmesan, cheddar and more. (Here she is with two of the hard cheeses she waxed today.) Rog makes weekly mozzarealla and butter, and we enjoy lattes every morning, but we still have a lot of milk to use up. Overwhelming and stressful! But then I had a genius idea...
I am an artist, a painter, and can barely afford paints...my favorite  subjects to paint since becoming a farmer are cows and chickens...milk has been used since at least ancient Egyptian times to make paint...HEY, I should make paint from LaFonda’s milk!  What would be more appropriate than paintings of farm animals from my own cows' milk?

So, I have been doing research on making casein paint. Casein is the predominant protein in milk.  To make casein paint, you  start by making quark, a simple cheese like cottage cheese, made by souring the milk with vinegar.  Then you add hydrated lime, which turns it into a glue-like medium.  Finally, you add pigments and you have paint!
I ordered a sampler set of  French mineral pigments from  Earth Pigments. They told me  they didn’t have the lime, so I purchased it from a local masonry supply, but had to get a 50-pound bag ($8.99), however, when my pigment order arrived, a 6-oz bag of lime was included (for $2.99 - you do the math.) Yesterday while making other cheeses,  Lynette  combined the vinegar and fresh milk and set it in a warm spot to make the Quark for me.  Today it was successfully curds and whey,  The curds are the milk protein pat. I strained out the whey and rinsed the curds with cool water to wash out excess whey.
After  rinsing and draining the curds through three layers of cheesecloth, I dumped them into a bucket to make the paint medium.
I stirred the hydrated lime into the quark, and it immediately turned into a viscous, glue-like liquid. There were still a few small lumps of casein, which we strained through cheesecloth and achieved a perfectly smooth medium.
Tonight I made red ochre, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, titanium white and and pistachio green paints. I mixed equal parts of pigment powder and water to make a “slake”, then stirred the slake into the quark medium, and, Ta Dah! - we have paint!! It is like tempera paint- thin, opaque, matte.  The earthy colors are comparatively muted and it is not flexible, like the acrylic paints I am used to - it must be used on a hard surface, such as wood or canvas board.

I invited Lynette to paint with me. She reluctantly stopped weeding to make art.
We will have to learn the tricks of painting with casein paint. You can over-paint but it has to dry between payers - Lynette is blowing on the  paint to speed up drying.
Lynette’s first casein masterpiece.
My first casein painting - a little cow portrait. I am starting to get a feel for this kind of paint. It makes me very happy!!  The unused milk paint must be refrigerated and only lasts a couple days, so I will be forced to paint intensively (not a bad thing for a born procrastinator.)

Vendors cannot ordinarily sell artwork at the Rochester Downtown Farmers Market, but I will be permitted to sell these paintings because they are made from a farm product, our milk. I am curious to find out whether anyone will be interested in purchasing my art at the market!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You need a little eye of newt to go with the slake and the quark.