Elizabeth Ahlem Clark

woman beach combing for natural pigment materials

I collect natural pigments, use them to make inks and watercolor paints, and then create abstract art. After making paintings of the land with commercial watercolor paints for years, I now make paintings with the land, using materials I gather from the land. 

I've been mesmerized by plants and rocks since I was little. Six-year-old Elizabeth was going to grow up and become a geologist, until she learned geologists don't just walk around picking up rocks all day. I would collect boxes on boxes of rocks from rivers and beaches and store them under my bed, knowing they were precious.

And then there were the afternoons spent turning backyard plants into "potion" with my siblings. I think that's why this series, Collecting Colorways, has felt like coming home to something. 

What is it about walking slowly and paying attention that feels so good? My creative process is now a lot of that- noticing the details of where I live and gathering them up to teach and surprise me, usually through ink and paint making.


natural ink

T H E   P R O C E S S

All of the inks and paints used in original Collecting Colorways art are handmade from ingredients found in or very near Whatcom County, Washington. These ingredients include local berries, mushrooms, trees, rocks, blossoms and discarded objects among other things. The list is continually growing. Some of these things I find and gather myself, and some I am invited to collect by friends, neighbors and strangers. 

I keep a record of when and where each ingredient was found, along with any story behind the gathering. Depending on the material, I use it to make either an ink or a watercolor paint. Each color behaves differently on paper, and they have even more varied performances when combined with one another. For more information on specific ingredients and colors, browse my Field Notes. 


A   N O T E   O N
F U G I T I V E   P I G M E N T S

While the earth pigments I collect are generally lightfast, pigments from botanical sources are often fugitive, meaning they could change in minor or noticeable ways over time. This process could become visible after a year or a hundred years and is all a part of creating with local, living ingredients. 

If you are considering inquiring about an original painting, you should be someone who will delight in the shifts that may occur.  Please also know that these qualities are factored into the price of each original piece.

Collecting Colorways prints are museum quality, archival reproductions of my original paintings. They suspend these living colors in time for you to enjoy.