Heart of Louisiana: Mud painter

Louisiana's stunning landscapes, its wildlife and majestic old homes are popular subjects for homegrown artists.  Baton Rouge painter Henry Neubig figures he's created five-thousand of these scenes. 

But there is something unique and very natural about the colors, the earthy tones you see in his paintings.  They' all done with genuine Louisiana mud.

"Egg yolk and mud and water.  Smear it on paper and it becomes a mud painting," Neubig says.

There is no oil, no acrylic, no store-bought colors.  About 20 years ago, Henry began collecting mud from around the state.

"Talking with geologists at LSU, I think that Louisiana probably has more colors than any state because of the action of the Mississippi River."

The sediment that created our land was delivered by the big muddy river, which has spent thousands of years dropping sand and soil from more than 30 states.

"Some are gummy, some are transparent, some are opaque, some are sandy, and it's a different medium than any other professional medium."
It's the way ancient Native Americans painted, and many of the great frescos in Europe were created by mixing colored pigments with egg yolk.

"Egg yolk has the oil and fats that make it a natural medium," Neubig says.

All of the colors in Henry's paintings come from these seven basic pigments.  These are oxides that he digs out of clays from five different places in Louisiana.

"Pink, the yellow and this kind of a neutral orange comes from West Feliciana.  This black is down in Terrebonne or anywhere in south Louisiana that has sugarcane.  The carbon from burning the cane.  The green, very unusual color from up near Arkansas in Webster Parish.  The mineral in this is called glauconite."

You won't find any blue in these paintings.  The color isn't found in louisiana soil.  But he doesn't need blue to paint the sky or the water, which mirrors a magical landscape.

"I love the birds, and different gestures of birds and different environments, and I love birds and water and trees.  And there's a million ways you can paint them, so there's an endless supply of it," Neubig says.

Henry Neubig figures his paintings have sold in 50 countries.  And with each work of art, a little bit of Louisiana -- its mud -- and its natural beauty are being shared around the world.

Neubig displays his art in his East Baton Rouge studio and at various festivals around Louisiana.  For more information, go online to www.MudPainting.com/Gallery.