Friday, September 2, 2011

An Ancient Medium

I decided to learn how to paint in egg tempera. Egg tempera is the medium that was used throughout the Middle Ages until oil painting was developed. Typically, an artist takes dry powdered pigments, mixes them with water into a paste, then adds egg yolk little by little until the proper consistency is obtained. Since I already had watercolor tube paints, I was able to use those instead of dry pigments. I did need powdered titanium white, because I didn't have any white watercolor.

Egg tempera paint has a translucent quality. You can paint an area in a solid color, then glaze many layers of different shades over it to get bits of many colors shimmering through together. White paint glazed over color gives a milky or foggy look. The paint dries very, very quickly, so you have to keep misting water over your palette, and it works best to paint in short, quick strokes. It is difficult to create entirely smooth gradations of color. But it's easy to paint sharp tiny details. The surface of the paint has a slightly shiny quality from the dried egg yolk. The painting smells slightly eggy for several days, but it dries hard over several months to a tough, permanent surface.

This painting of a rose was painted on 8"x8" Ampersand Claybord. I finished it July, 2011.

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