The day passed quickly. Yujia started on another oil painting, didn't get to finish, and began working on it for the entirety of the next day. The day after that, she decided that it was a good time to begin experimenting.
Though her master was hesitant to provide her with the specific formula or technique of creation for oil paint, he was still very open to giving her access to his full warehouse of supplies. In a smaller courtyard of the villa, there was a room with a tall ceiling. Lined against the walls were shelves with all sorts of ingredients and materials, all neatly labeled and stored.
She went to a shelf with pigments, specifically picking a soothing shade of yellow ochre that would be easy to work with. She also picked up a vial of linseed oil, which she discovered with delight and surprise.
When she left the storage room and passed by the courtyard with the kitchen, she noticed a chicken running across the yard, making her think of eggs. Tempera paint was made with eggs. She didn't work with this medium of paint that frequently in the past, but perhaps after mastering the formula for oil paint, she would test out some tempera paint.
As Yujia reached her room, she sat down in the middle of her courtyard and began to tinker with things. First, she placed some of the yellow pigment powder down on a flat stone surface. Then, she pulled a palette knife from her set of supplies. She took a vial of linseed oil and pulled the airtight stopper open.
Last time she tried making oil paint, she did buy a variety of oils. None of them worked particularly well or achieved the consistency that she preferred and was familiar with. This was likely because she hadn't managed to get her hands on linseed oil. Linseed oil was a European product, but it was the best oil to use as a paint binder because of its chemical composition that allowed it to dry faster than all the other oils out there.
She imagined that the oil in her hands right now was a specially imported product, which explained why she could not find it in the ordinary markets. After all, besides painting, Yujia wasn't sure what linseed oil was used for. Perhaps it had its purposes, but in Chinese cuisine, where animal lard was more commonly used, linseed definitely didn't belong near food. A strong, unpleasant odor also radiated off of drying linseed oil, making it even more undesirable.
Yet again, Yujia had to thank her master's late wife for preparing supplies like this ahead of Yujia, even if she didn't intend for Yujia to use them or know that decades into the future, a fellow transmigrator was going to be experimenting with the same things. If Yujia could meet Wei Yunjing, she would definitely thank the woman. It was saddening to think that she had passed, so many years before.
Using the palette knife, Yujia began to pour oil into the pigment. For her first try, she poured too much by accident, the consistency too sloppy to her liking. She had to dispose of the paint.
The second try, she learned from her past mistake, only adding in a few drops of the linseed oil as she worked. The pigment and oil under her knife slowly blended into a thick paste. She mushed the paste back and forth under her knife, until it was somewhat smooth and reached the thickness that she wanted the paint at.
Looking down at the vivid yellow paint, Yujia thought that she had accomplished it. It looked okay to her. The high quality pigments and specific oil that she used must have also helped with that.
However, when she tested painting with the newly made paint on a primed piece of paper she prepared days ago, she found out that the pigments were still rather clumpy. It was not applying quite as smoothly as she imagined that it would. The pigments hadn't fused with the oil yet.
Sighing, Yujia went back to smearing the paint with her palette knife, hoping that the pigment and oil would bind properly.
It ended up being to no avail. Ten minutes of solid blending later, the paint still applied strangely.
Brows furrowed, Yujia pushed this clump of paint to the side. She put more pigment onto the stone plate and tried a variety of different oil to pigment ratios. Blending for more than a good half hour, she tried all of them out and still saw nothing that worked.
Yujia stared at the mess of "paint" she had in front of her. She tried different amounts of ingredients, but why was it that it still didn't work? Could there be something wrong with her chosen materials? Was there another ingredient needed for oil paint that she didn't know about?
She decided to take another trip to the warehouse. Once she walked in the room, she looked carefully at all the materials again.
Could it be that linseed oil was not the type used in oil paint? She could've sworn that she remembered learning about linseed oil being the main type of oil for this kind of paint. Her eyes trailed over the various vials of different oil, safflower and walnut oil being a few of the many kinds. She also looked at the other colors of pigments. Was choosing yellow ochre a bad choice?
Yujia looked at a beautiful shade of sapphire blue pigment, envisioning that it would look stunning as a color of paint. She scooped some up into an empty wooden container by the side, deciding to test out this pigment. Following that, she was about to grab all the different oils— even though she was confident from her past failures testing other oils that it might not work— when she noticed something in the corner of another shelf.
It was a smaller shelf with tools. Backup palette knives, empty containers, paintbrushes, and many other tools rested on the shelf. On the very edge, what caught Yujia's eye was a paint muller. There were actually two of them. One was pure glass while the other one was made of stone that was polished as smooth as glass.
An idea appeared in her mind. The paint muller may just be the item that she was looking for.
Grabbing the stone one, Yujia rushed back to her yard. She couldn't wait to test and see if this was the solution to her problems.
The stone muller, carved to have a flat bottom and a handle to hold, was designed to glide across the stone slab Yujia took to make her yellow paint on. She took the palette knife and scraped one of her paint trials to the center. Then, she took the muller and placed it over the paint, beginning to grind the paste. She wanted to put force behind it, so she stood up and leaned her weight against the muller while she moved it back and forth.
Grinding the paint was tedious, but as she did so, Yujia grew more and more confident that she was doing the right thing. She treated it just like a workout for her arm muscles.
After a long while of grinding and scraping, Yujia finally lifted the muller and used her palette knife to get all the paint back onto the stone slab. She could see the difference as she worked, but it was all clear now, when she looked at her unmulled paint by the side. The paint which had been mulled took on a glossy sheen, resembling the oil paint she was used to.
Pulling the paper over again, Yujia tested the application of the paint. It went on the page as smooth as butter. The pigment was completely dissolved into the oil. It looked like the paint she was used to. It felt like the paint she was used to.
Triumphantly, Yujia cheered to herself.
She finally made her first successful oil paint!
Without cheering for long, Yujia tried to make the sapphire blue paint now. Something she discovered as she made the paint was that each kind of pigment required a different amount of oil. Furthermore, although she was grinding the paint, based on the pigment, a different final consistency could also be made. Because of the different color and amount of oil, neither her yellow ochre or sapphire blue paint turned out the same consistency. They did, however, both make excellent kinds of paint.
Yujia was more than excited. She couldn't wipe her smile off her face when she went to fetch more pigment to make more paint.
Her morning and a good part of her afternoon passed like that, experimenting with making paint. She tested different amounts of oil and pigment for each color, recording down the ratio that she discovered to make the best paint for each kind of pigment. This information would be necessary when she decided to make oil paint a commercial product.
As she worked, she wasn't exactly the neatest person. She did roll up her sleeves and borrow an apron of a sort, but that didn't stop her from accidentally smearing paint all over her hands or accidentally— accidentally— dropping a container with purple pigment and having a purple cloud completely swarm her, leaving her with purple dusted on her robes, skin, and hair. That was the messiest part yet.
By the time that she finished, she was starving for lunch but looked like a mess.
Turning around, Yujia was about to call a servant to fetch lunch, but that was when a servant came to her, telling her Ye Yunhe wanted to see her. Thinking that it was just her senior brother who needed something, Yujia didn't bother cleaning herself up. She went over to his courtyard.
Upon entering there, she saw Yunhe sitting at his stone table, lunch by his side. There was another man next to him, wearing Lingxin disciple robes. He had his face turned away originally, but when Yujia walked closer, her footsteps alerted him.
The moment he glanced over, Yujia met eyes with none other than Yu Zixu.
She froze in her steps. Out of all people, what was he doing here? She didn't want to see him. Not right now.
Looking down at her ruined clothes and paint-stained hands, she wanted to walk backwards and exit the courtyard like she never existed in this dimension, but she knew that this would not work.
Yujia instead gritted a smile and sat down across the table, giving Zixu a nod before addressing Yunhe. "Senior Brother, what do you need? I heard you wanted to see me?"
"Ah, yeah. I just wanted to eat lunch together," Yunhe explained, "We hadn't in a while. Junior Brother Zixu was just paying a visit too, and I happened to grab him."
Yujia stared at her senior brother.
If she didn't know better, she would think that Ye Yunhe just got possessed by her master.
"He brought pastries too, so I decided to invite him for lunch," Yunhe went on.
"Pastries?" Yujia repeated.
Zixu nodded. There was a bamboo basket at the center of the table, which he lifted the lid of. In the first of the stacked layers were pastel-colored cakes with delicately molded petals fanning out at the top of them.
Yujia stared some more at the pastries. She had to admit that they looked delicious.
After a brief moment, Yunhe suddenly stood up, placing his chopsticks down. "I think that Master wanted to see me, actually, and I forgot. I must… go."
Yujia stood up as well. Pastries were not good enough of a bribe to keep her here, even if she was starving. "Master must want to see me too," she echoed.
"Nope." Yunhe placed his hands on her shoulders and sat her back down. He smiled at her. "I'm sure he doesn't. You should just stay here. I'll be back soon."
And with that, he speed-walked out of the courtyard, waving at Yujia.
Gawking at how her senior brother just left like that, Yujia turned back to Zixu. What just happened? Did her senior brother really get possessed?
Yunhe walked into his master's courtyard. His master was in there, waiting for him with a look of anticipation.
"Did you do what I asked of you?" the old man said.
Yunhe gave a solemn nod of affirmation, which his master gave a proud chuckle at.
Yunhe may have been dense, but he could tell that his junior sister didn't really want to be left alone with Yu Zixu. Regardless, he had been bribed— or, well, more "properly" stated, carefully persuaded— by his master that if Yunhe carried out this one task of getting Yujia and Zixu to meet up, his master would teach Yunhe a new painting technique that was never before seen.
Was it worth selling his junior sister out to learn more about art? Yunhe pondered for a moment, then decided with a nod.
Besides, he was sure that his junior sister would be okay with it. She might have seemed a bit unwilling at first, but Yunhe was sure that she would relax and have fun eating lunch with Yu Zixu in no time. Maybe this could even be the best day of her life, with the surprise.
Yujia wanted to die.
yayy, long 2.2k words chapter!
researching oil paint is super fun! especially watching videos of people make paint, it's oddly satisfying :D
also i'm all for some good irony haha
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