Making Paint With
Artist & creator of L’Ecole Des Beaux Arts
It was a dream to collaborate with another person who loves color as much as we do, and we’re very excited to introduce Sara Moffat of L’Ecole Des Beaux Arts. LDBA launched their handmade watercolors in May of 2019. Made in Sante Fe, New Mexico, each color is sourced for pure inspiration and pigment integrity. Along with handmade watercolors, LDBA also offers products and workshops for adults and children with a focus on quality and sustainability at their Sante Fe location. Their shop carries beautiful, practical, high quality items that are designed to be loved and used, as well as clothing meant to be worked in.
Can you share a little about your background and the path that brought you to where you are today?
Hi! So lovely to share with you :) I’ve always drawn and painted, I went to art school, fashion school, sold paintings, made clothes, realized I loved painting the line sheets for the clothes the most, started watercoloring more than oil painting, in part because of the ease in travel and clean up, and then later fell in love with the medium. I visited an NYBG show on Darwins’ Garden in 2008 and was inspired to start painting botanical studies in watercolor. Now, when I have time, painting plants, animals, flowers and shells is my happy place.
Do you have any early recognizable memories of color that had a big impact on you?
I have had vivid, colorful dreams since I can remember. Also, my father lived in India when I was a teen, I would travel there and it was such a different color education! With painting, color has been important, but it’s interesting how our experience and understanding of color is limited because of the materials available. I remember trying to match blues and greens to what I was seeing, and the colors just weren’t right. That was before I made my own :)
Why did you start creating your own watercolor sets?
A few years ago, I was looking for paint to sell in a watercolor kit I wanted to put together, and that led me to make my own paint. I learned the correct technique from a very old European company in NYC and thought I would only make 6 colors, but much like painting, the creative process and alchemy required to make the paint brought me unexpected joy. We now mix and sell more than 70 colors!
The watercolors are made from the finest pigments and all natural medium. Can you share a little more about the selection of materials?
We source our pigments from around the world. Our favorite pigment comes from Italy, but we have colors from Germany, France, India, Norway, Austria, and the US. We buy the pigments already in powder form. The technique of mixing watercolors that we use is pure pigment mixed with a stabilized medium of Gum Arabic (Acacia tree sap), honey, and glycerine. We do not add chalks and fillers to the paint, which would dull down and extend the color. Many companies do add fillers to save money, but without them, we are able to make vivid, opaque, rich and bright watercolor paint that you can add water to create translucence.
Each of your colors is sourced for pure inspiration and pigment integrity. Can you talk a little about those aspects?
Our spectrum keeps growing! We choose colors based on our own and our customers' needs. We mix a few custom colors in house that I haven’t been able to find, and they have become staples in our collection, but for the most part, we are able to find the pigments we want. We use small, old-world pigment factories that have smaller production requirements, and therefore produce more colors.
What’s your favorite part of L’Ecole Des Beaux Arts?
Great question! Some days I think it’s that we make paint for people, some days my favorite part is the classes and workshops we provide, and then the fact that we’re able to supply people with high quality products- including artist wear, supplies and literature. I think the combination of it all really makes it work- you don’t have to paint to enjoy what we offer, but if you want to paint, we’ll teach you and arm you with the very best supplies.
Can you share/ talk about your inspirations for palettes and colors?
One of my favorite things is when customers ask me to match colors with paint. I’ve been making paint for 4 years now, and I love creating palettes based on what people paint, or what their Grandmother would enjoy, or matching colors to clothing or lingerie :) Living in the high desert in Santa Fe is a whole dreamy pastel palette with a pop of bright blue! New York was a completely different palette: steely grey, brown, green, neon and indigo. I learned to make paint while living in Maine, and that palette was a combo of burnt sienna, silver, blue, grey, green, red, purple and french ochre.
Mark Rothko wanted viewers to stand close to his paintings, to be enveloped by their hues, to have a mythic, transcendent experience with his work. How do you experience color?
I love that and I completely understand. I often get lost in a color that I’m making- and then can see it all day in different items- “her shirt is venetian pink, his hair is brown ochre”, etc.
Do you think color can elevate one’s mood or that it has a magnetism that can alter the feeling of a room or carry an emotional charge?
Are there any particular color pairings that are your favorite?
Currently, fluorescent red, rose gold, french ochre, and cornflower blue (I see all colors in shades of my paint now).
Do you have a signature color?
It’s constantly changing- right now I’m drawn to orangey pinks, last week it was hues of blue. One thing I love about making paint is that my color crushes rotate :)
And lastly, can you share a few artists that inspire you?
Hilma Af Klint, Georgia O’Keeffe, Louise Bourgeois, Cezanne, Matisse, Christopher David Ryan.
Thank you, Sara!
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