DIY: Organic Painting

Poke BerriesOne of the things about being an artist that has always bothered me is it’s a hobby (or life) which is geared towards social & political change, yet is entirely toxic to the artist and the earth. Which is an oxymoron that really hit home for me when I became chemically sensitive from the overuse of unsafe materials in unventilated areas. For years after I contemplated what art really meant to me if I could not use the toxic oils, acrylics, stains and glue I was accustomed to- all the beautiful bright colors & goop I had based my entire style on.

I love the idea of making vibrant meaningful art from materials that are locally, organically, and safely sourced– and was shocked to find that we have things in our back yard and grocery that create quality art that’s sure to make your heart thump and hands clap. These videos are of the painting process using poke berry & turmeric paints, made easily by boiling each with some kosher salt for about 45 minutes. I started Organic Paintingexperimenting with these paints a few months ago and the color has not faded at all- plus you can mix these organic colors together to get more variations. The paint brushes I used are made with human hair (mine and my neighbor’s), a stick and a rubber band to hold the hair in place (you can shape it perfectly with scissors!). The “canvas” is paper sewn together and hung in a tapestry fashion with locally woven organic cotton scraps.

This is one seriously locally organicy chemical free project, which I think I will just call Loganic for short. 😉 Check out the process in these fun clips below!

Part 1 Poke Berry Paint (magenta)

Part 2 Poke Berry and Turmeric Paint (magenta and yellow)

Part 3 Poke Berry and Turmeric Paint Mixed (magenta, yellow, red, orange)

Yay for organic paints!!!

Written by Leslie Richard

I live and breathe everything eco , from organic gardening, organic food, to green crafting, minimalist decorating and nature made art. On an average day you can find me planting seeds, loving on my kitty, working on my eco fashion store The Oko Box (, and blogging about something green. I love promoting eco lifestyles and participating in changing the future, for a greener earth. xoxo


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  1. I am so happy I found this site and I’m so happy to know there are alternative art supplies. I’ve already blogged about your site and look forward to reading more.

    Thanks a bunch!

  2. I *LOVE* this idea! I’ll admit, the effect my painting habit has on the environment does cause me some stress, so I’m super excited about these ideas! I’ll be linking to this.

  3. Just wanted to point out that just because it is a plant and organic does not make it non-toxic. Pokeweed is very toxic if ingested. There are a few parts of the plant that are less toxic if prepared in certain ways, and gathered at certain times. I would hate for someone, or their pets, to be made ill or die because the plant was “natural”
    reference website:

    Pokeweed does make a good, longlasting colorant, one of its other names in “inkberry”, The Declaration of Independence is written in an ink made of fermented pokeberry juice.

  4. Thanks Alison for pointing that out- non toxic does not mean we should eat something, poke berries are not for human consumption, but they do not have chemical offgasing and are not harmful to the earth if it was poured out onto the ground. I am looking for ways to make colors, that are biodegradable, don’t hurt the earth, and don’t gas chemicals into the air that are dangerous to our health.
    And like any dye or paint, wash your hands/skin if you get it on there because it will color your skin as well!

  5. Hi,
    Love your work. I have a few questions. Do you have the ratio of kosher salt to poke berrier to share?
    Also, reading about pokeberry ink, it sounded as though it yellows over time due to UV exposure. Has this happened to your work or does the kocher salt inhibit this?
    Thanks and keep up the good work. I have more sites on health, materials and art if you ever need references.

  6. Hey Jenny –
    Each time I didnt measure the Kosher salt but I would say i put in at least a cup of it. None of mine have yellowed at all, not even any indication that they might – but I will note this and say that maybe storage can be done in the dark if you dont have them hanging on display. I have not put any of them in direct sunlight but that would definitiely effect the color, since i have seen it happen on fabric.

  7. Hi Leslie,
    Thanks for the response. My pokeberries are just getting ripe and I plan on trying this recipe for ink.
    I was also reading that iron may actually enable the ink to last. There is some reasoning that the ink used on the Declaration of Independence used both pokeberry and an iron compound for longevity.
    Let us know how your art is holding up.
    Love your site.

  8. Dear Ms Leslie Richards,

    Originally I was browsing with organic painting as the keywords. I was told that organic painting is a kind of branch of the art of painting. I found the site of Adrian Navarro which gives me some understanding and examples of organic painting. From the front cover of PinkFloyd music album I noticed that organic painting as a way of creating a nice painting based upon the beauty of nature: plants, fish, flowers, scenery etc. But, from this website, you give me a different perspective. Am I wrong?

    By the way, I am an engineer by education and training.

    Looking forward to hear enlightment from you.

    Thank you so much,

  9. Very inspiring, thank you! I had always been told that natural pigments would fade quickly, but you have me wondering. Is it the kosher salt that fixes the color? If anyone has some good links on using natural materials for painting over whitewash or natural plaster, I would love to know more. I want to do make some murals on a cob wall.

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