Aboriginal Ochre Wars

Tasmanian Ochre Mine

Tasmanian Ochre Mine

There was a time when all of Australia was a network of trading posts. And good ochre was one of the most prized items to trade. “Wilga Mia” in Western Australia is one of the most sacred ochre mines on the continent. If you want to collect any you have to ask permission from the traditional aboriginal owners and also from the sacred beings who live beneath it’s ancient chambers. It was still being mined and traded in the 1980’s, although by the end of the 20th century it was being collected in plastic buckets instead of bark dishes.
In the Flinders Ranges of South Australia, there’s another famous ochre deposit. For thousands of years Aboriginal expeditions (70-80 men) would walk for two months to travel the thousand- mile round trip to collect their red-gold ochre at a place called Parachilna. They would return with 20 kilos of ochre each in possum or kangaroo skin bags, and on their heads they’d carry huge grinding stones from a nearby stone quarry.

grinding pigment

grinding pigment

Then in 1860, guess what happened, you guessed it, the white guys arrived. Farmers arrived with land and sheep ownership claims and obviously didn’t want the Aboriginals to eat their sheep or walk across their land. But the natives continued to take sheep meat for their journey and walk across their land which soon became punishable by hanging. In 1863 there was an “ochre massacre” when scores of Aboriginals were killed by angry settlers. Then someone from the South Australian administration suggested a solution! They decided to “move the mine to the Aboriginals” so they wouldn’t have to make the journey. But they moved the wrong mine. They removed four tons of ochre from a mine owned by another tribe on the coast and spent weeks hauling it back. It was a completely wasted effort because the Aborigines wanted none of it.
The white settlers missed the point that it was a pilgrimage involving elaborate ceremonies in collecting the ochre and bringing it back. Also, the sacred ochre was essential for trading which happened when one item is seen as equal in value to another. But free ochre had no value. And lastly, the sacred ochre was used for painting ritual designs and this other ochre from the coast was not good enough or sacred enough and didn’t contain the hint of mercury that made it sparkle.
• From “Color” by Victoria Finlay


Eco Oil Painting Tutorial Video

I’ve recently recorded an 8 minute video of me explaining how to eliminate all toxins from your oil painting practice. There will be tips and techniques and info on how to use only natural materials (nothing synthetic or petroleum based). Enjoy!


Earth Paints & Nature Art Class

Natural Art Class

We will celebrate Earth Day with an all natural earth art class. I will demonstrate how you can make your own earth paints from natural clay. And then we will paint smooth river rock stones and/or drift wood with earth paints. We’ll make eco stationary with leaf, veggie & flower prints and Native American paint brushes with plant stalks. If there is time we’ll learn how to make earth pastels and natural egg tempera paint.

When: April 27th 5-7 pm

Where: Jackson Wellsprings, in the Goddess Temple – 2253 Highway 99 N Ashland, OR

Directions: The Tree of life Garden is in the back of Wellsprings and there is parking along the back road. Walk towards the tree of life garden then look to your left you will see two domes, the first dome is the Goddess Temple and there is a bark path leading up to it.

How much: $25 per person includes all supplies (Earth Paints, stones, drift wood, leaves, veggies, paper, brushes, etc.)

What to bring (optional): We will be making Eco stationary with leaves and flowers and I will provide some basic paper but if you would like to bring nice or eco (hemp, hand-made, etc.) paper, please do. Also, if you have any large smooth rocks that you’d like to paint for your garden, please bring (I’ll provide small rocks).

Who: everyone welcome

Taught by Leah Fanning Mebane

Call or email Leah for more info. 541-890-6533




Review of “Simple Pleasures” Eco Children’s Book

My children’s book, “Simple Pleasures”, just got its first review on Veg Books (which reviews only natural, animal friendly or vegetarian promoting books). The book features 24 original watercolor paintings of children enjoying themselves in nature with no plastic or batteries necessary.

The book is now available for sale for $9.95 plus shipping. Email to order: Leah at FanningArt.com


Earth Based Children’s Book is finished!

After a year of hard work I’ve finished illustrating my first chilldren’s book, “Simple Pleasures”, and it has been published by the author, Myron Cretney.

“Simple Pleasures” is an earth-centered book about enjoying nature and how you can have fun without batteries and gadjets at any age.
The book is for sale for $9.95 plus $5 shipping for a signed paperback. Enjoy!

To purchase a book. click here or mail checks to: Leah Mebane PO Box 94 Ashland, OR 97520

Earth Paint Kits Are Here!

Paint your world with colors from the earth

Earth Oil Paint Kit

Children’s Earth Paint Kit

Two new easy-to-use kits make wonderful holiday gifts!

These naturally colored clays—some millions of years old—are collected from the earth, dried, crushed, and sifted to create the pure pigments used in my kits. The resulting paint is very high quality, completely Earth friendly, and naturally non-toxic while producing a rich, luminous luster. All packaging is made of 100% post-consumer recycled and biodegradable materials.

Children’s Earth Paint Kit

Organic and eco-friendly, it’s composed primarily of natural earth pigments and organic milk powder.

Mixing water with the six powdered colors produces creamy paint similar to tempera. Unlike typical children’s paints that are thin, transparent and full of fillers and preservatives, these are non-toxic, rich, and vibrant. Both children and adults will love expressing themselves on a range of materials including paper, canvas, stones or wood.

The kit includes six earth colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue and brown), biodegradable mixing cups, complete directions, nature-based activity ideas, and more). $29.95

Earth Oil Paint Kit

These professional-quality oil paints can be used on canvas, wood, primed paper or any surface that regular oil paint is used on. Unlike traditional tube oil paints, these paints contain no preservatives, fillers, heavy metals or toxins. They also offer excellent UV resistance, longevity and are beautifully radiant on the canvas. They also mix with tube oil paints perfectly.

The kit contains six earth pigments (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, brown), refined walnut oil, and complete directions. Included are tips on eliminating toxins from the oil painting process and more). $39.95


Order kits at: www.naturalearthpaint.com

The website also includes earth paint recipes, nature based art activites, earth paint history, photos, videos and more….



Weekend at an Oregon Artist Retreat

I spent a wonderful weekend at the Chinook Artist Retreat in Klamath Falls two weeks ago. The grounds were pretty amazing with a huge, light-filled studio (windows all the way around), a separate living space with bedroom and access to a big living room, dining room and kitchen. And the best part, a beautiful bath house with hot tub, sauna and showers. It was also surrounded by gardens, a labyrinth, and magical woods with a bald eagle preserve. The prices were very affordable and seem pretty flexible since this is a brand new retreat. The owners, Robert and Sharon Chinook, were so sweet and generous and even gave us some homemade stew.

Django gives helpful advice

I have to give a shout out to my husband Drew who played in the woods with baby Django for two full days so that I could paint! I was able to almost finish my nature inspired children’s book (which is now done!) and 3 small abstracts on wood panels inspired by the surrounding Junipers.

“The composition is all wrong, mom!”

Go to: http://www.chinookretreats.com/home for photos, info and pricing if you’re interested. You can stay for a month, a week or a few days.


100,000 year old paint making workshop discovered

A new discovery was just reported in the New York Times of a
100,000 year old paint making workshop in a South African cave. The
archeologists found hundred’s of pieces of red ocher stone, special ocher
grinding stones, tools made from animal bones and large abalone shells where
the paint was mixed. Before this discovery, the oldest workshop discovered was
60,000 years old while the oldest cave art found was 40,000 years old (and the
most famous cave paintings in Lascaux, France was only 17,000 years old).

paint in abalone shells

The cave is called Blombos, on a high cliff overlooking the
Indian Ocean (hence the abalone shells) on the tip of South Africa. These
paint makers blended the red ocher with the binding fat of mammal-bone marrow,
charcoal, quartz grains and an unknown liquid in the shells and then scooped it
out with bone spatulas. To read the NY Times article click here.


Detoxing for Artists (and everyone else)

Even though I now have only natural art materials around, I have to admit that I spent most of my life bathing in turpentine and leaving heavy-metal laden paints on my skin to seep into my bloodstream. Noone ever brought up the subject in high school or art school or beyond so I didn’t worry about it. Even if I wasn’t an artist, just living on this planet means we need to detoxify or lesson our toxic load (since it’s impossible to completely detoxify). I went to a great class recently by two naturopaths who were also experts on detoxifying your system. They first told us that most humans on the planet have around 200 types of toxins in their body already and that there is no place on earth without toxins. Also, most newborn babies are born with around 170 types of toxins on their bloodstream (tested only minutes after birth).

The more you cleanse and take a few steps to detoxify, the better you feel- more energy, vitality, fewer colds, illnesses, diseases, the benefits are endless. I’ll mention a few of the daily and weekly detox habits that they suggested.

Daily: Releasing toxins from the skin: They begin every morning (or every time you shower) by dry brushing your entire body with a loofah mit or brush. It doesn’t have to take long, just 60 seconds or so. Then they coat their body with organic sesame oil. Next, they take a warm shower (no soap except on the underarms). Then they do a little water therapy by turning the shower to hot for 30 seconds (not scalding but just a little hotter than is comfortable), then cool for 30 seconds (not freezing, just refreshing), back to hot and then end with cool. This does alot to get those toxins out through the skin.

Weekly: Eat all fruits and vegetables one day a week, along with some good fats (coconut oil and olive oil).

Monthly: They also suggest seasonal cleanses that go much further.

painting with respirator – not fun

To learn how to detoxify your studio, go to my previous blog entry on “Non-toxic Oil Painting” to find out more.