The kids and I are studying colors this summer, according to The Folio Society edition of Victoria Finlay’s book Colour: Travels Through the Paintbox. Here, she reports on her findings of origins & sources of, infatuations with, and legends of color in various parts of the world. So far we’re fascinated by the broad spectrum of information Finlay presents. It's quite a thick book, so we're documenting the basics of what we've learned, as well as completing an art project for most colors.
Ochre, our first color, has quite a history. As the chosen medium of the Italian petroglyphs of Valle Camonica, Ochre tells the story of a people long gone, their activities, interests, and the homes they once inhabited five thousand years ago. The ancient clay is iron oxide, found in many pigments but classically known to be reddish-brown in appearance. Native American Indians were first penned "Red Indians" because of the ochre they used to mark their faces.
The Aboriginal people of Australia consider ochre so precious that until around 1980 it was commonly traded for weapons from people of the north and the south. Ochre is used among the aboriginals in an art genre called Dot Art, and has been used for thousands of years. In the 1860’s, violent “ochre wars” took place in Adelaide, Australia, between white settlers and the Aboriginal people. Still today, women (Aboriginal and others) are not welcome to view ochre artwork in person; however they may see pictures. Ochre art is hence considered “men’s business” among Aboriginals. In Australia’s northern territory of Kakadu, locals chewed up ochre and spat it onto their hands in order to leave handprints on the walls of caves. I suppose we do the same thing; our method is just a little more civilized.