Frida Kahlo’s DIY Paint Recipe
How to emulate artistic genius via a home-cooked emulsion.
By Maria Popova
Mexican painter and reconstructionist Frida Kahlo (July 6, 1907–July 13, 1954), true to her penchant for native crafts and her methodically inquisitive mind, was intensely interested in artists’ guidelines — a meta-genre of art that holds equal fascination today. From The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait (public library), which also gave us her passionate hand-written love letters to Diego Rivera and her poignant meditation on how we are all connected in our pain, comes Kahlo’s recipe for a paint medium using damar gum — a resin harvested from trees native to the Pacific — to which pigment would be added to produce the final paint product:
FOR THE OLD CONCEALER FISITA*. Distemper together 4 equal parts of egg yolks raw linseed oil
egg yolk = raw linseed oil = compound of damar gum blended in turpentine = water
damar gum dissolved in turpentine and distilled water. with disinfectant take = concentrated aldehyde alcohol. ½ gram. to a liter of water.
crushed damar inside of lemon [suspended in] turpentine for 8 to 10 days.
remove all the white from the yolk.
- Make an emulsion of the ingredients
- Grind the colors into the emulsion
- If a glossy texture is desired, increase the amount of damar, up to two parts.
- If an overall matte finish is desired increase the water up to three parts
* Diego Rivera’s nickname for Kahlo
Complement this with Hans Ulrich Obrist’s compendium of 20 years of famous artists’ irreverent instructionals and the ever-delightful Artists’ & Writers’ Cookbook.
The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait remains beautiful and fascinating in its entirety — a rare glimpse of one of modern history’s most outwardly celebrated inner worlds.
Published July 9, 2013