Saint-Malo’s Field

St-Malo’s Field

I never knew that there were places in Canada where one could stand and be surrounded by a rainbow of brightly coloured earth—ochres and umbers creating every imaginable shade of yellow, red, and brown. But, I’ve discovered that Saint-Malo, in Quebec, is one such place …
In researching possible places to explore for local-colour pigments on a recent trip to eastern Canada, I came across a reference by J. Obalski from 1889 in which he talked about the hundreds of acres that were then being worked by a paint company from Montreal which had produced 800 tons of ochre in that year alone. Another source from the period also reported that while this location produced mainly burnt-reds and greenish-umbers, it had a wide range of colours. With descriptions like this, I needed to see it for myself!

The area we visited was a wide-open expanse banded with a myriad of earth colours. The family and I were free to run, explore and hunt pigments in this large area. As each child ran along these ridges of colour, they also began playing with the landscape by building pretend mines. I explored the area myself but also made time to visit each pretend mine in turn. I think Adèle’s dig was especially exciting—Just a few inches below the somewhat muted sand was a bright yellow ochre that erupted as she began to dig! I collected two buckets full, and I can’t wait to get back to the studio and begin playing with the colour myself.

“Adele’s Gold” being found by my daughter
A bucket of a new pigment colour for the studio.

Leave a comment