Inside the Studio

RF on natural pigments

We visit the Austin, Texas studio of RF Alvarez to learn about the specific histories of the natural pigments he used to paint his figurative series ‘Elegy’.

Photos by RF Alvarez and Mackenzie Smith Kelley

Ef9d296e dde5 4993 9040 04414168f54e
41b06f38 0c1c 4dd3 9ec1 216c8b4f9d92
5941432c 81ca 4cc0 be2e 1d9c6c3ccfdf
Slant

“Red Ochre is one of the first pigments used by humans: it shows up in cave paintings and on ceramics around the world. It gets its compound from iron oxide, the same compound that colors our blood, and that carries a whole suite of implication with creating an artwork. I like the idea that I'm painting with a life source.”

— RF Alvarez

471f4504 359c 4e5b af39 f5c4a62072cd
B99722dc 3d11 4bdb a915 ccb0ba0a2670
4ddde0ac 59e7 40ce a0e5 9aad859b3a66
D4a35c60 3948 4153 a6f3 053910ef4af3
Slant

“Raw Sienna is similarly a pigment that shows up in many of our earliest art-making as a species. I use this pigment as a base for compositions in direct reference to the caves of Lascaux and other similar prehistorical works.”

— RF Alvarez

Cf581353 940f 485f bab6 35766a8a6d87
5fdafd0e 463f 4b16 8a27 be169c38edbc
4b82e1d9 3926 49d4 b60e 84da7be2364b
86c4717a d278 40ad bc77 6e9497d452c7
Slant

“Ultramarine blue is traditionally made from lapis lazuli mined in Afghanistan. The Italians used it throughout the renaissance and gave it the name oltre il mare or beyond the sea because it would arrive in ships from the east. This pigment carries with it a representation of the interconnectedness of cultures, the worldwide trading that defines us, but also an emotional weight as its intense color is heavy, dominating, and luminescent.”

— RF Alvarez

Bacf5e26 c380 45cf b408 bacf784817de
91237723 40e8 4e06 bbbe 1872155c73b0
D523297f 919a 4a1d b6b2 e6d9f13ab14d
8b37e4b1 084b 411e bdd2 e5687eac223c
Slant

“The bodies in this series no longer have a symbiotic relationship with nature, they become a part of it, permeable to it, vulnerable to it and exist in a careful balance with it. ”

— RF Alvarez

Eab97e2f f984 43c2 b095 3a72afb65f39
00962490 5987 41eb 82f6 ec708ba58355
F1f01830 88eb 44ac a657 1c2d7649a066
43f5bf89 e781 4caa bf2a 06d690e23bb4
Slant

“Terre Verte is a green pigment derived from a celadonite and used throughout the Renaissance as an underpainting to flesh tones. I like to depict bodies in my works that appear made of clay, and this fact helps emphasize that motif. Underneath the skin there is green earth, which is to say we are a part of our environment. ”

— RF Alvarez

Ad44fd75 77ab 4472 ab69 9d3d91c04d5a
643951f1 5cae 49e5 9516 d7b5a37015ac

More From RF Alvarez

More from Inside the Studio

Tour Artist Studios
3e4ab35a 4f20 4f33 9021 6c72c8f4910e
Inside the Studio Visit with Liesl Pfeffer

As an Australian navigating Berlin, Liesl Pfeffer explores the nuances of language and communication through her latest textile works.

More from the Journal

Browse Posts
59ef772c bc75 493f a481 db4dc8a5dc0e
At Uprise Behind the scenes of "The Trace of the Sun"

Kristin Texeira takes us inside her studio at the Albers Foundation in Ireland and gives us a behind the scenes look of the making of "The Trace of the Sun".