Pigmenta Aurum Watercolour by Pia Meenakshi
Pigmenta was created out of desperation, when finding good art supplies was difficult and expensive in India, especially Bengaluru. For Pia, it is important to be able to play with materials and get the hang of different mediums, be it watercolour, charcoal, digital art, and so on. “A few years ago, I began paying more attention to art materials. I wanted a clear understanding of the difference between high-end art materials and the lower, more inexpensive brands. What were the elements that determined the overall quality of the product? I read extensively on how art supplies were made and slowly came to understand the science of it. With that knowledge, I started reviewing materials and started a blog, which became a space where I would examine a particular product in detail and test its applications. Most importantly, I tell my readers where to find it in India, especially Bangalore,” informs Pia.
Experiments by Neethi using Pigmenta paints
From there began her journey making her own materials. It started off with pastels, which were easy to make but not useful to her work. Eventually, she stumbled on countless recipes for watercolour, which she fine-tuned for years until she created her own standard recipe to follow. “Once I started making gold paint, which I use a lot, I started sharing samples with illustrators and friends. They loved it! That’s where the idea of making these paints available to everyone interested came from,” shares Pia.
However, this process of becoming a paint maker has not meant disowning all other paints. “I'm happy with the branded paint sets I have. But I really enjoy making and using that perfect dark blood shade, or the perfect wine. I have started mixing base colours with shimmer pigments and creating paints with more depth. When you make something from scratch and really understand the science and composition of the materials, you respect it and the hard work that goes into making it. Traditional artists from history used to stretch and prime their own canvases and grind their own paints. It's good to go back and borrow good habits from them. It's something I feel all artists should explore at some point,” she notes.
Experiments by Sudeepti Tucker using Pigmenta paints
Interestingly, it is nature and colours themselves that inspired the artist more than other paint makers around the globe. “For example, I want to make pigment out of soil or even plants! I often wonder about various colour combinations, and what colours they would make. That's what inspires me to make the paints I make.”
Elaborating the Research and Development phase of the product, Pia explains that instead of scientific testing, she conducted logical tests being an artist herself. “A lot of the trial and error is based on two factors: the pigment themselves and the binder that binds them. Various pigments behave differently and it took me a long time to find the pigment that worked in terms of giving the finish that I wanted. The consistency of each batch is regulated by following a fixed recipe. Some colours might differ slightly, especially those composed of more than one pigment. But I make small batches, let it set, try it after a week, make another batch, and compare.”
Pia’s experiments with Pigmenta paints
Going forward, Pia’s plans do not include scaling production or going commercial. “I want a gold paint to be available in India which isn't expensive, for people to be able to go beyond the primary colours. I want it to be handmade, to make them in batches as limited edition sets and colours. There's more value and appreciation for paints that are made by hand and colours that might never be made again.” Art lovers can also look forward to a variety of sketchbooks from the Pigmenta bandwagon in the near future.
“When I wanted to launch Pigmenta many years ago, I was planning it to be a proper commercial art supply store. But it was overwhelming for one person to do and it never took off. This time, my plan is to start small, work handmade and take it as it comes,” wraps up the paint maker.
Pigmenta Motherlode Phantom Pink, Specture Blue, Rosewater, and Aurum created by Pia Meenakshi
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Image source: Pia Meenakshi