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July 7 - July 14

Pigments and Paint: A Cooking Class for Artists - ICA 2024 Renaissance Series

Pigments and Paint: A Cooking Class for Artists - ICA 2024 Renaissance Series

Workshop Dates:
July 7 - July 14
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About the Workshop

A hands-on workshop on producing painting and drawing materials according to historical methods. The intensive, week-long workshop is ideal for painters interested in gaining greater familiarity with their materials, academics and teachers interested in curricular development, art historians, and people interested in developing a deeper understanding of traditional works.

Born in 1360, painter Cennino d’Andrea Cennini, left a remarkable legacy, beyond that of his surviving works.

A student, of a student, of Giotto, Cennino left of us a remarkable and intimate record of the life and working processes of a painter in his time. His book is called, il Libro del’Arte, simply, “The Book of Art.” It provides insights into the training of the artists of his time, as well as that of the next generations of artists in Italy. Incredibly, this included some of the greatest figures in the history of Western painting: Masaccio, Fra Angelico, Leonardo, Botticelli, Michelangelo, and Raphael among others. To the reader of today, Cennini’s text provides the remarkable opportunity to participate in this legacy.

On a practical level, Cennini’s book is also a very useful guide to the production of pigments, paints, painting surfaces, and other materials of the medieval and Renaissance artist. In this however, it also reveals something larger than that of a recipe book. It speaks to a very special connection between artists and the materials they choose. Often, that connection resulted from artists making their materials themselves, by hand. Indeed, Cennini refers lovingly to the rare, almost spiritual beauty of, ultramarine blue to the easy, sensual qualities of a charcoal black as well as to their sometimes, tempestuous personalities of materials like, dragon’s blood!

What is revealed is a unique connection to the materials of the artist, in which all elements have significance. As translator, Daniel Thompson describes, “A very choice black was, and still is, made from peach stones; and almond shells were sometimes charred to produce another sort. To the outsider all these blacks would seem very much alike; indeed, they would probably be quite indistinguishable. But a painter of the medieval kind becomes familiar with the little quirks of personality in his pigments, and is affected by small subtleties which it is hopeless to try to define, subtleties not so much of color as of working quality, how the pigment feels, how it mixes, whether it tends to settle out of a color mixture, or stays nicely in suspension, and little things like that.” These “little things” can indeed have big effect to the artist who remains sensitive to the qualities of their materials, creating a bond that becomes a language of its own.          

We will use Cennini’s book as a basis for our exploration of making pigments and paints. Guided by the experience of our staff, in collaboration with our long-time supplier, Kremer Pigmente, and the advantage of modern chemistry and production methods, we will embark on a historical overview of pigments used by artists throughout the ages - actually, making many pigments from raw ingredients. We will observe sometimes miraculous transformations in color, creating beautiful and luscious pigments that will last …forever. We will then turn these colored particles into a variety of paints, pastels, and charcoal. Our goal will be to produce the following materials which participants will take home with them at the end of the workshop:

20 g. Jars of pigment as follows:

    • 3 natural iron oxide (earth colors)
    • 3 calcined (burnt) native earths
    • Carbon black

3 ml. Jars of pigment as follows:

    • Dye colors: carmine, sap green, madder red, and indigo

Inks as follow:

      • Sumi ink sticks, Bistre ink, Sepia Ink, Iron gall ink, Walnut ink
      • Also: Quill and reed pens

50 ml tubes of oil colors as follows:

    • Titanium white
    • Yellow ochre
    • Red ochre
    • Green umber
    • Prussian blue
    • Lamp black

20 ml jar of

    • Copper-resinate green

Watercolors in natural mussel shell, as follows:

    • Gamboge
    • Carmine
    • Madder Red
    • Ultramarine blue
    • Sap green
    • Pastels as follow:
    • Titanium white
    • Yellow ochre
    • Red ochre
    • Greenish umber
    • Ultramarine blue

Pastels as follow:

    • Titanium White
    • Yellow ochre
    • Red ochre
    • Greenish umber
    • Ultramarine blue


In doing so, we will understand the processes of levigation, grading for optimal particle size, grinding, precipitation of lake colors, and many other processes. We will also make surfaces to be used in a variety of aqueous, solvent-based, and dry applications. At the end of the workshop, an excursion to the National Gallery of Umbria in Perugia, will provide real examples from Cennini’s time and later, which will illustrate both the beauty and the permanence of these materials.

Participants will be housed in the remarkably well-preserved Umbrian hill town of Monte Castello di Vibio. Your workshop package is all-inclusive, providing welcome and departure services and airport transfer from the Rome Fiumicino, Leonardo Da Vinci Airport (FCO). Aboard our comfortable private bus, single occupancy accommodations with shared bath (a wide range of upgrades with private bath are available), 3 meals per day Monday-Thursday, Prosecco brunch and dinner on Saturday and Sunday (no meals are served on Friday, our excursion day. Your workshop includes one excursion per week and many additional options are available on weekends for an additional fee. Of course, 24/7 access to facilities and 24/7 bi-lingual support are provided.

All materials for the class and the excursion are included in the cost of the workshop.

About the Instructor

Included Amenities

Click on the links below for detailed information about our included amenities.
View Amenities Page »
  • Airport transfer from and to the Leonardo da Vinci Rome/Fiumicino Airport (FCO) aboard our private bus (on scheduled dates only). Bus departs the airport promptly at 12PM.
  • Airport welcome service and assistance with baggage
  • 24/7 bi-lingual support with manager on site at all times
  • All ground transport aboard private buses or our ICA van, unless otherwise specified. Licensed and insured professional driver and ICA guide accompany all excursions. Orientation at each destination is provided as is departure coordination (guide service is available upon request — unless specified — for an additional fee)
  • Complimentary bottle of local wine provided in rooms on arrival day and complimentary locally made soap
  • Village orientation and complimentary drinks provided on arrival day
  • Private access to our 5-storey tower at our Palazzo Persiane (on sign-up basis) for spectacular morning and evening views
  • Access to our art materials shop (during posted hours)
  • Thorough orientation lecture and maps provided the evening before departure
  • Return transport to the Rome/Fiumicino Airport (departs 5:30AM) with rest stop
  • Departure service/airport assistance at airport
  • Unless otherwise specified, single occupancy accommodation is provided in rooms with a view of the Tiber Valley that includes sink and vanity. Rooms are with shared bath on each level (3 rooms per bath) in our 14th century convent building, The Asilo. Apartments, rooms with private bath and AC, double rooms, group or villa accommodations are available for couples, business associates/ friends, or groups for an additional fee
  • Linens and towels provided
  • Weekly housekeeping service with change of towels and linens
  • Free washing machine access
  • Good Wi-Fi connection and access to our library and film collection
  • 3 chef-catered, gourmet meals per day (buffet breakfast, 3-course lunch, 4-course dinner) — with wine at lunch and dinner (table wine provided at lunch and dinner. An excellent wine list is offered at additional cost), while in Monte Castello
  • Group dining service is as follows, with breakfast and lunch served in our dining room, etc, with dinner (weather permitting) served on our private terrace overlooking the Tiber Valley
  • Lunch and dinner are plated as follows: pasta course, main course, vegetable, fruit/salad, dessert
  • When requested at registration, vegetarian, vegan, and special dietary options are provided
  • After dinner drinks on our terrace overlooking the Tiber valley
  • Dining service is as follows: Breakfast: 8:00 AM; Lunch: 1:00PM; Dinner: 8:00 PM. No meals are served on Fridays (excursion day) unless otherwise specified
  • On Saturday and Sunday, a full buffet brunch with fresh pastry and Prosecco is served at 11:00 AM
  • On Saturday, homemade, wood-fired pizza is served at 7:00 PM (except on departure days, when a special farewell dinner is served)
  • Sunday dinner with antipasti is served at 7:00 PM
  • Farewell dinner on the evening prior to departure
  • 24/7 access to our primary building and library is provided, including access to workspaces, studios, and ceramics facility
  • Special access to certain cultural and art collections is available upon request
  • FOR VISUAL ARTISTS: private, or semi-private secure and monitored studio space is provided (24/7 access)
  • FOR WRITERS: private workspace is provided (24/7 access)
  • FOR GROUPS: Group workspace is provided (24/7 access)
  • FOR CERAMIC ARTISTS: 24/7 access to our ceramics facility
  • Free access to lectures and events at the Teatro Concordia
  • An end of the session exhibition with reception that includes hors d'oeuvres and Prosecco in our gallery. Posters are prepared to promote the event with copies provided to all participants
  • 1 excursion per week is included (unless otherwise specified in the itinerary) aboard our private bus. Additional trips can of course be scheduled and given our central location. (Day trips are possible to as far north as Siena or Florence and as far south as Rome.)
  • Advanced reservations and ticket purchases for groups and individuals
  • Concierge services provided upon request at an hourly rate
  • Restaurant reservations (provided under Concierge services)
  • Car rental
  • Critique series with visiting visual artists
  • Artist materials workshops
  • Drawing and painting sessions from the figure
  • Cooking classes
  • Cheesemaking workshop
  • Pizza-making workshop
  • Kids cooking classes
  • Wine appreciation and Sommelier Courses
  • Wine and olive oil tastings
  • Vineyard tours
  • Truffle hunting
  • Ballroom dance classes
  • Weekend excursions to flea markets and natural sites
  • Shopping excursions to cashmere and leather outlets, to Deruta famous for fine painted traditional ceramics, and antique stores
  • Overnight excursions to the sea and day-trips to Rome beaches
  • Hot air balloon tours
  • Hot springs excursions
  • Lake Trasimeno tours
  • Umbria abandoned castle and fortress tour
  • Sustainable farming tour 
  • Babysitting services
  • Soccer, archery, and horseback riding camps for kids
  • Motorized mountain bike rentals
  • Electric car rental 
  • Golf-cart tours of Rome and Florence
  • Hiking/naturalist guides to national/regional parks - mountain hiking available
  • Fishing/Hunting Excursions

Payment Options

  • Payment in full (€500 non-refundable deposit is included. No refunds will be issued within 60 days prior to the start of the workshop. See refund policy for more details).
  • Non-refundable €500 deposit (Balance due must be paid a minimum of 30 days prior to workshop).
  • Balance payment (after €500 deposit).

Required Forms

All ICA participants; whether coming independently, with a group or through a college / university, must provide the following completed forms and information to at least 2 weeks prior to attending their program. 
Emergency Contact & Medical Information »Liability Waiver »
Proof of Insurance / Travel Insurance
Itinerary and Passport
For detailed information and to download the required forms, please visit our Guides and Forms page.


Day 1 (Sunday July 7th)

  • Arrive Rome/Fiumicino Leonardo da Vinci Airport (FCO); Bus Departs FCO at 12:00 PM
  • Arrival at Monte Castello di Vibio appx.: 2:30 PM:Lunch/Orientation/Rest/ Tour of village/Dinner
  • Presentation after dinner: Toxicity of pigments: Comparison of Flake, Titanium and Zinc white: Mining titanium white:

Day 2 (Monday July 8th)

  • 8:30 – 9:30 Breakfast
  • 9:30 – 1:00 Morning session:
    • An introduction to color: color in light/color in substances: absorption and reflection/color perception
    • Artists pigments: a historical overview: pigments in history/ nomenclature of pigments/ chemical composition of pigments
  • 1:00 – 2:00 Lunch
  • 2:30 – 7:30 Afternoon session: The Primeval palette
    • Class Projects
      • Native earths: harvesting/levigation/evaporation- importance of particle size
      • Participants will gather native earth colors, levigate and evaporate them for later use
      • More rocks and minerals: grinding and purifying minerals such as Lapis, Cinnabar, Orpiment, Realgar (class will only handle Lapis) – Topic: particle size and color
      • Participants will grind Azurite and malchite
      • Carbon blacks and the art of burning sticks and bones: Participants will make charcoal for drawing, carbon black (India ink) and Sumi ink stuicks
      • Calcined native earths and Naples yellow
      • Participants will bake native earth pigments and observe color changes
      • Natural dyes and dye colors: dyestuffs/dye extraction
        • Animal sources: cochineal, lac, kermes, Tyrian purple, sepia
        • Plant sources: gamboge, madder, indigo, dragons’ blood
      • Participants will make carmine and sap green pigments, as well as bistere, walnut, and sepia inks
  • 8:00 – 9:00 Dinner
  • 9:00 – 10:30 Optional time for presentations, films, lectures, etc.

Day 3 (Tuesday July 9th)

  • 8:30 – 9:30 Breakfast
  • 9:30 – 1:00 Morning session: The Ancient Palette
    • Metal salts: Copper/Lead/Synthetic iron oxide (we will make all)
    • Colored glass: Egyptian blue, smalt, lead-tin yellow
  • 1:00 – 2:00 Lunch
  • 2:30 – 7:30 Afternoon Session:
  • 8:00 – 9:00 Dinner
  • 9:00 – 10:30 Optional time for presentations, films, lectures, etc.

Day 4 (Wednesday July 10th)

  • 8:30 – 9:30 Breakfast
  • 9:30 – 1:00 Morning session: Alchemy and color
    • Red lead and Vermillion (we will not make these pigments but we will observe the process in video)
  • 1:00 – 2:00 Lunch
  • 2:00 – 7:30 Afternoon Session:
    • Making pastel: the group will make pastels from titanium white and native earths
    • Making pastel card (surface for pastel paper) and binding into blocks
    • Participants will make a set of earth colors and titanium white in pastel
  • 8:00 – 9:00 Dinner
  • 9:00 – 10:30 Optional time for presentations, films, lectures, etc.

Day 5 (Thursday July 11th)

  • 8:30 – 9:30 Breakfast
  • 9:30 – 1:00 Morning session
    • Synthetic pigments (video)
    • Prussian blue, Chromium colors, Cobalt colors, Cadmium colors
  • 1:00 – 2:00 Lunch
  • 2:00 – 6:30 Making water-based paints:
    • Watercolor, casein, tempera and glair
    • Participants will make a set of earth colors in watercolor
  • 6:30 – 8:00 Free time or independent work
  • 8:00 – 9:00 Dinner
  • 9:00 – 10:30 Optional time for presentations, films, lectures, etc.

Day 6 (Monday July 12th)

  • Excursion: Perugia, National Gallery of Umbria

Day 7 (Saturday July 13th)

  • Morning: Review of work
  • 11:00 AM Brunch
  • Afternoon: Packaging and set up exhibition
  • 6:00 PM: Exhibition of projects

Day 8 (Sunday July 14th)

  • Departure day bus leaves Monte Castello for the Rome/Fiumicino Airport at 5:30 AM for flights departing after 11:00 AM
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