Pigment hunting: Madoc

Months ago, Reiner and I agreed that if there was no snow we’d head up on an early November weekend and look for colours on the Canadian Shield. As the weeks passed we decided that we would head for the town of Madoc and continued to hope that the weather would cooperate. Well the weekend came, and the weather was fine, so we headed up.

Reiner said that he knew of a little place where we could stay, but it wasn’t until we pulled up that I understood that he really meant ‘little’. The Madoc Hotel was very comfortable, clean, and the owners were nice folks, but if I was planning to spend any amount of time in the room I might have become claustrophobic! (But since I wasn’t, this wasn’t a worry.)

Firstly we headed up to the Eldorado Mine which was originally worked in 1901 for iron-hematite, in 1903, however, they found copper and continued mining for those minerals until 1907. Either the iron or the copper could create some great pigments, so it seemed a good place to begin. We didn’t have much trouble finding the main pit (roughly 50′ round and 75′ deep) thanks to Reiner’s GPS.

Digging into the bank on the edge of the pit was really exciting as our hammers uncovered bright yellows, reds and greens. The green was Chlorite, and wouldn’t be much good for pigment, but the iron based yellows and red were wonderful finds. I read in an old article once that good yellow pigments weren’t available in North America, but there are exceptions to this for the amount a single artist needs. I can’t wait to get home and work with this pigment!

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