Icon Diploma Student

Learning to see with the eye of the heart

Colour Crunching

3 Stones variety of colour

Variety of colour in a handful of washed ‘Chrysocolla’

A very happy New Year to you! Hope you are all blessed with a little peace wherever you are over these twelve days of Christmas.

Our final icon for the diploma course will be a festal icon. I have chosen the Nativity in which I am planning to use some soft earth colours. To get me set up for the year ahead, I’ve been crunching minerals to make my own pigments with some surprising results.

I had a small batch of Chrysocolla which I bought from the Lapidary Shop in Burslem, Staffordshire. This is a bright blue-green copper based mineral, closely associated with malachite and azurite.

1 Chrysocolla rough stones

Chrysocolla as rough cut mineral fragments

Before I began to grind it with a pestle and mortar, I separated out some of the brighter and darker pieces to divide it into three batches.  This post is mostly photos so please join me for a minute to enjoy the gorgeous rich colours which have emerged from this exciting mineral.


2 Chrysocolla washing stones

First wash the chrysocolla to remove debris, then let it dry out.

4 Chrysocolla colour variants

Grind with pestle and mortar before fine-grinding on the slab and muller.  Note the jars for levigating the finely ground mix scooped up from the slab.

Crunch about a tablespoon at a time until it is the texture of fine salt. Then tip the powder on to the slab, add a tablespoon of water and grind until really smooth, anything from 5 to 10 minutes with firm rotating movement.

The next few photos will give you an idea of the variety of greens which can be found in this mineral.

5 Chrysocolla.jpg

Add water by the spoon to the pigment. Use a plastic palette knife to scoope the mix back to the middle.

6 Chrysocolla

Copper green

7 Chrysocolla

Earth green

When the pigment is smooth and fine, use a spatula and a mop paintbrush to scoop up the mix and drop into a jar of water. Let it settle for half an hour, then pour off the top water into another jar and let that settle. Have another jar of water to rinse your brush in between batches and you will collect more pigment as you go along. I used over a dozen jars for this process.

8 Chrysocolla

Softer earth green

9 chrysocolla

Blue green

I poured the mix from the bottom of the jars onto plates as it dries out faster. When it’s dried, use a stiff brush and gather it into a jar.

10 Drying pigments

levigated chrysocolla pigment

Variety of greens all from separating and levigating the ground pigment.

To see Aidan Hart demonstrating this process in one of the diploma classes, please have a look at the You Tube video Aidan Hart demonstrates grinding azurite pigment.

I now have a great selection of greens! I also ground up some Haemetite, azurite, pyrites and malachite. All came out pretty well.

Thanks for reading.


jars of pigment

Array of green pigments all from the same batch of chrysocolla.

5 Responses to “Colour Crunching”

    • ronniecruwys

      Hi Veronica, I thought you meant ‘shades’! Yes, such a surprise with the variety. I did something similar with the malachite. There were some greyish pieces which I took out and ground separately, only tiny quantities, but the soft grey green that emerged was gorgeous. I will go back and look out for less colourful minerals as they produce lovely earth shades.

  1. Mary Clancy

    Hi Ronnie
    What a great project to undertake. I love you blog, and have read it all through a couple of times already
    I found your blog via you Youtube videos, I i stayed up half the night watching them.
    I am an iconography student in rural Australia, and I get to attend 1 course a year with a master Iconographer.
    I have Aidan’s book, but was thrilled to find your videos and also Lee’s.
    Do you have any others you can upload?
    Your work is beautiful, and I am green with envy at you being able to attend this diploma course.

    • ronniecruwys

      Hi Mary,
      Wow, thank you for your kind words! I am so glad it is helpful. I’m taken aback by how many times the videos have been seen, I only posted these to share with Lee when she missed the gilding sessions, but they are proving very handy, for me too. Im so grateful for You Tubes clever editing which corrects all my camera wobble.

      I do have one more video to upload – painting an old man’s beard! I must get on with putting that up. I feel so fortunate to be on the course, thats why I want to share what i’m learning. We are now in our final year but I plan to keep the blog going after the course ends this Oct, as I have plenty more to share. Isnt it amazing that you are in rural Australia and Im in Staffordshire Uk, and we can communicate like this over iconography! Btw, Aidan runs one week residential icon courses in uk, at Walcott Hall in Shropshire. Its a great week, great place to stay, good food etc, more info on his website. Put it on your wish list if you ever get a windfall! When I went three years ago, there was an Aussie couple attending, or rather the lady did the course, husband went sightseeing. They liked it so much, they booked again! Thanks for getting in touch Mary, you have fired me up to keep up the blog posts. All the very best with your icons.


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