Peltophorum Pterocarpum

​​​​​​Our handmade watercolours are all available on our Etsy store

A specimen of a young Yellow Flame tree at Pasir Ris Park, on the eastern coast of Singapore.

How to use: Wet surface of pan. Gently scrub the surface to allow the watercolour more time to rehydrate. 

Storage: Store in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight. Ensure the pan is dried out before keeping. Even though we boil our inks with natural preservatives, there is still a chance of mold growing. In case that happens, just scrap off the moldy part and you should still be able to continue using the colours.

Splotches of Yellow Flame ink.

After a heavy rain, the flamboyant golden-yellow blooms form a thin floral carpet on the pavements of our streets. When you meet this plant in her flowering stage, it becomes apparent why she is coined the “Yellow Flame”. She is also known as the soga in Java, Indonesia – the term referring to her classification as an important dyewood tree in this region.

A pruned branch (about 4 to 5cm in diameter)  from our landscaper partner.

Owing to her attractive aesthetics, ease of propagation and how her long-extending branches provide much shade from the sun, the Yellow Flame (Peltophorum Pterocarpum) is one of the most common trees grown along the roads in Singapore. And one that apparently requires frequent pruning, so we hear from our landscaper friends, because she tends to grow “water shoots”, which are weak sprouts apparently unsuitable for street propagation. Her extensive branching network seem to be a popular roosting spot for hornbills; I used to see at least two hornbills roost almost every night on a sturdy Yellow Flame branch growing near Pasir Ris Park, until it was pruned off for maintenance reasons. 

Routine maintenance of an aisle of young trees at Yishun, in the northern part of Singapore.

Brown is such an underrated colour. In Ancient Rome, the term “pullati” was used to address the urban poor, which literally means “person dressed in brown”. It has more positive associations today. Think rich dark soil, nature, chocolate. Yum. The vibrant and versatile shades of brown makes this our favourite source of brown thus far, and one of our favourite materials to work with. 

Freshly peeled Yellow Flame bark.

We received tones from yellow, reddish brown, brown brown, peach red at different boiling times with different modifiers. Other factors that seem to vary include whether the ink was brewed from fresh or dried bark, the age and the size of the branches when used. While some woody material requires much time to extract the colour, this bark gives colours relatively quickly. It is always strangely interesting to watch how the hue changes from a reddish brown to a darker brown upon oxidation, and delightful to see how the lines between red and brown start to blur. 

I found myself wondering, is this a red or a brown?