Vegetable Illustrations


One of my favorite colors is the color of beet juice. Any time I peel and chop a beet, I wish my hands would stay that color. I thought about the staining power of beets and realized, they’d make a wonderful pigment for watercolor painting. So, I was off, on another random wild idea.. I searched the fridge and found turmeric root, but couldn’t find anything to use that had enough pigment for green until I opened the cabinet and found spirulina. Perfect!

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I set three pots on the stove to boil small amounts of water. In one pot, I threw beet peels and some old diced beets that I had forgotten in my refrigerator. In another pot, I threw diced turmeric root. In the last pot, I threw in the spirulina- I must warn you, if you try this, spirulina is terribly smelly. My whole house smelled like fish food.. and beets. (I opened windows despite the current below freezing conditions- sometimes you just gotta run with your creativity and deal with the consequences.) I turned the burner off under the spirulina as soon as it dissolved to avoid the smell as much as possible. I let the beets and turmeric boil until it appeared as though all the color had seeped out of them. I then let them all cool.


Then, I sketched the shapes of the vegetables onto some 11×15 inch watercolor paper in permanent marker.

I strained and reserved the liquid off of each pot of ‘paint’ and poured each color into a bowl. Then, I began painting. Just as I would paint with watercolor; working with layers and the flow of the liquid. Watercolor is so therapeutic for my soul. It’s got an element of uncontrollable independence. I have to let go of my want for control and allow the pigment to do as it pleases. Many hours of working in the medium has allowed me to know when and where to place fresh layers, but I still never quite know how the painting will turn out when I begin. Especially when working with paints I cooked up from items around my kitchen.


Can you think of any fruits, vegetables, or roots that would make good pigments?


10 thoughts on “Vegetable Illustrations

  1. Penniless Veggie says:

    Ha! I’ve done similar stuff with berries! You get some great colours for a while, though without a chemical fixative they lose their vibrancy. Those are great pieces of kitchen art! So vital and immediate. Lovely stuff.


      • Penniless Veggie says:

        I would take some really good quality photographs soon as you can. Keep the lovely sketches in the dark in a folder for now. I *think* you would have needed to add a chemical fixative to the veggie juice *before* painting with them, The pre-boiling might be enough. I don’t really know enough about natural pigments to be certain, though it’s possible they may oxidise in time. Some kind of sealant applied over the painting may indeed help prevent oxidisation, I’ve not explored that route. Hopefully the internet will be of help!


  2. said simply says:

    Kayse, these are wonderful! What you wrote about your process made me smile. I love your creativity and your willingness to explore artistically. I could see these framed accenting the decor of someone’s kitchen or even a restaurant. Eli


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