Tag Archives: chameleon pigment

Clay surface tests

Alongside 3D sculpture tests, I have also been working on some old canvases to see how the chameleon pigments work on a more 2D surface. These canvases have hand mould clay elements that resemble worms and bacteria. I must admit that I am not quite sure where I am going with this… although at the very least, it will enable me to build up layers of chameleon and UV reactive pigments.

Clay Panel

Canvas with 3D clay surface texture and first coating of chameleon pigment.

Chameleon Pigment: 3D Experiments

While I have been prepping for lab work (and awaiting clearances and media), I have been using my residency to invest in studio time and test new materials and processes that (somewhat subconsciously still) align to the themes of the Synapse project.

Over the past few months, I have ordered a stack of chameleon pigments from suppliers in Australia, China, the US and UK to test quality and colour. I have compiled a series of swatches on different substrates to determine colour shifting properties and how they layer and complement each other. So far my favourite supplier is A1 Pigments. They stock a huge range of powdered pigments including chameleon and mica pigments.

I have also tested solvents including water-based varnishes, oil-based media and wood varnish. Unfortunately water-based products are not suitable for the pigment and it works best in a polyurethane/resin base. I particularly like the results from using timber varnishes such as the Bondall Monocel Timber Varnish range. They have a slight warm amber tint which  gives the application a nice depth of colour. For crystal clear application and sealing, KBS’s Diamond Finish Clear Coat is fantastic as it is non-yellowing and super clear (although a bit expensive).

As part of my testing process, I have started to develop a series of small sculptural works that consider species and matter entanglements and the wonder of the universe.

Sculpture 1

Top view of Sculpture 1 showing chameleon pigment coated rocks formations and Titanium Aura Quartz

Sculpture 1

Frontal view of Sculpture 1

Sculpture 2

Frontal view of Sculpture 2 showing a Pyrite cluster and Peacock Ore (Bornite).

These sculptures have ‘secrets of the universe’ hidden in their base. The form of the works hints at the nature of the secret, but you would have to destroy the work to reveal it.

I really wanted the base to be a dark matt black. To achieve this I tested Stuart Semple’s Black 3.0. While the initial results were good, the black marked too easily with my messy handling. As such, I opted for black flock  instead. Not only does this coating hide slight surface imperfections, it also creates a great matt black and light absorbing coating. Now that I am making some headway on ideal flocking application, I am planning to flock some of sculptural works to create a contrast between soft velvety textures and glossy surfaces.

I should mention that was first introduced to flocking by my dear friend and fellow artist Michael Riddle. Finally, I have a purpose for my own work to ‘get flocked’. So thanks Mike.


Chameleon Pigments

While I plan to spend quite a bit of time in the lab, the Synapse residency is also giving me space to experiment with new creative materials that complement the focus of the research. In particular, I plan on moving forward with chameleon pigment experiments – I have been obsessed with them since the start of the year.

Chameleon pigments are essentially powered colours that have an iridescent quality reminiscent of peacock feathers and beetle wings.

Jewel Beetle

Example of iridescent Jewel Beetle, Jarrahdale State Forest, Western Australia, November 2011 by John Tann via Wikimedia Commons. 

What I particularly like about chameleon pigments is that they shift colour depending on the viewing angle. Not only can they shift between two colours (blue-green), some pigments allow for quite a large spectrum shift (blue-violet-red-orange).

My initial interest started with nail polish (even though I never wear it) as there are a fantastic range of chameleon and special effects options available on EBay and other outlets.

Screenshot E-Bay Search

Screenshot of Ebay search for chameleon nail polish July 2021.

While nail polish was a good start, the small volumes are unsuitable for larger projects. Therefore, my search took me to find larger volume options. I was delighted to discover that chameleon pigments are quite common in craft project and there are a number of retailers in Australia and overseas that produce chameleon and metal mica pigments for a wide range of applications.  The price of these products is variable, so I have been testing small quantities of powder from a range of companies including Solar Color Dust and A1 Pigments.

Screenshot of Chrome Dust Pigments

Screenshot of different chrome dust pigments available at SolarColorDust.com

With the Synapse grant, I plan to expand these initial experiments to include automotive products, as chameleon pigments are also available as for custom car painting and detailing in powder, paint and spray form. Perhaps they will even work to highlight fixed cells on glass.

Chameleon Car Paint

A car with chameleon pigment paint finish taken in 2019 by W Fan (cropped image with license plate number removed) via Wikimedia Commons.