"... He ground indigo leaves, pulped and dried them to a powder, mixed them with palygorskite and heated them in copal resin to a rich dark zaffre that could colour a night sky at that moment of dusk to dark. He fired ochre to the almost-black of midnight. Cooked white lead to the yellow of noon. Cooked it again to the red of dusk. He soaked saffron with egg white, transformed the scarlet stamens to citron golds. Discovered the magic of salt. Mixed it with mauve-tinged azures, violet reds. Boiled roots, and thickened the dye with turpentine and alum. He found vermilion sunsets in mercury sulphide, fired them to an orange cinnabar. He ground berries to a pulp, discovered purple when he mixed the juices with acid, ultramarine when he mixed them with alkaline. He ground up malachite, found cyan and celeste, celadon and olive. Ground up madder, found crimson, ruby and alizarin. Crushed azurite, inhaled lungfuls of deep blue, as if the air were now visible.
Then he bound these colours, set them, with gesso, plaster, linseed oil, sap from cherry trees and resin from sweet pines. He melted wax. Dabbed at his creations with paintbrushes made from fine horsehair, and swept colours across reams of white parchment paper, over and over, until he'd sought out some arcane perfection. His pigments were luminous and brilliant. They did not fade in the sun, in the wind or the rain. They lifted skies and made rich the blue red earth."
From Jakob's Colours by Lindsay Hawdon, a quite superb debut novel that is also a heart-rending read.