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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "The Age of Paint"
This poem came out of the May 2020 [community profile] crowdfunding Creative Jam. It was inspired by [personal profile] alexseanchai. It also fills the "Art" square in my 5-1-20 card for the Sumerian Me Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] fuzzyred. It belongs to the series Arts and Crafts America.

"The Age of Paint"

It began with finger flutings
traced in the clay of cave walls.

Then someone dragged
a sooty stick over the stone,
and so began the Age of Paint.

The first paint was simple:
a mineral pigment mixed
with a carrier such as fat.

The colors were limited
but dramatic: red, yellow,
brown, black, white.

It took forever to make,
but it lasted forever too.

Later on, people learned
new ways to make paint
with binders and fixatives,
emulsifiers and driers.

They brought forth
blue of the sky, green
of the grass, and
purple of iris petals.

They discovered how
to suspend plant pigments
in water to make ink.

They painted great works,
but many of the colors
proved fugitive in time.

In the hidden caves,
on the desert stones,
there still remained
the first works from
the Age of Paint.

* * *


Finger flutings are furrows made by hand in soft cave mud, among the earliest hominid art.

Prehistoric paint colors mostly come from mineral pigments. They include ochre (red, orange, yellow, brown), umber (reddish to brown), sienna (yellowish-brown), manganese (black), and kaolin (white).

The evolution of paint colors added blues and greens, which for a long time were rare, expensive, and sometimes dangerous. Good purples came considerably later.

Fugitive colors fade over time, especially if exposed to sunlight or water.

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