Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My First Tempera

Rather than wait for my real gesso boards and aqueous dispersions, I threw caution to the wind and mulled some Titanium White pigment, mixed it with egg and water, and spread a coat over a hot pressed 140 lb Artistico block. The paper buckled and took nearly an hour to dry out. Further washes surprisingly caused more buckling; my expectation was that the first coat would seal the paper.

I had only a few pigments with which to work--Umber, Titanium White, Verona Green Earth, Red Ochre, and Carolina Yellow Earth, so I used them all. :-)

About three hours last night and another this evening.


  1. wow- such a different look from all the other mediums you have painted (and drawn) with so far. It looks like you have really taken to tempera (is temupra an 'olde' spelling?) When I look closely at the leaf, I am amazed at the degree of delicate and subtle veining you achieved; do you feel that you have more control with tempera and does it lend itself to fine detail more than other mediums?
    This is all quite intriguing!
    ~ gretchen

  2. Oh my, it was simply an olde brain spelling! :-) Either that or the pure excitement of getting my first piece posted. Thanks, I fixed it!

    It is probably too soon to read too much into this but I feel like I have found something special with tempera. From being able to work my #4 Raphael to a mere wisp, to pulling form lines ever so lightly, it is all so, so satisfying.

    Glazing is incredible, nothing like watercolor. Instead of pure transparency, tempera can offer a translucent glaze or a downright opaque cover. Last night I worked in large sweeping strokes and this evening I was able to work with that and achieve gradual transitions a wee bit at a time, occasionally working under my optivisor.

    I am poring over forum material and now off to bed to continue reading. I simply cannot get enough.

    Like I mentioned, too soon to tell, but I do feel "like I am home".

  3. John, that piece just glows with exact light, and the colours are deeply, deeply satisfying. Keep going. I agree: it looks as though you have found something special!

    It's a lovely study. You have made your leaf into an eggleaf. I best like it rotated 90degrees clockwise so its shelly tines point to the right; it's a faintly surreal object just fallen to touch the forest floor, or something improbable resting on the meniscus of a pearly pond.

    Have you given it a title?

    Are you going to enter it in any local open exhibitions?

  4. There is something about this piece that means so much to me. I simply have to keep looking at it. It will soon be framed. The only name that comes to mind is Number One. ;-)

    I thought of you this evening when I picked up my copy of The Bible of Illuminated Letters (first time in ages!) and it opened to a tempera reference.

    I just missed the last exhibition for a local gallery but I did get to meet the owners and I am sure that I am in for the next show in May. I will be checking out other venues as well.

  5. I'm sure I've read somewhere that you can use some premixed watercolour paints with egg. Wondering if it would work with the Rublevs, which seem to contain minimal additives. Maybe it was an 'at a pinch only if absolutely necessary' action. What does Mayer say (if anything)?

    Really pleased you are setting up to exhibit.

    Isn't it great getting a good feeling off your own work? :-) I am not surprised you are enjoying looking at it. I especially like the 'touch-point' where you shade smoothly down to that blackish brown balanced by the scar outlines elsewhere, and the streaky wood-grain effect in the background turquoises and pinks, which contrast so delicately with the yellow.

    Personally I think it is a true 'Egg' picture. Looking forward to seeing what is going to hatch out in the weeks to come.

  6. I have read the same about using watercolors. Some folks do it but most caution against and I think that is because of the gum arabic. Something about the brittleness factor and how it might affect archival status. Also picking up underpainting as I mention below. This really does have me wondering if I might simply get all the pigments I want or need and make my own watercolor and egg tempera. Perhaps too big a bite... I don't know yet...

    Hatch out. I love it! :-)

    Mayer mentions gum arabic emulsion (?) but not clearly as to if it mixed with egg. I think not. He does mention that gum arabic is not so water resistant and that there might be the picking up of the underpainting when applying a new layer. I may have read something about this with regards to egg and gum. I suspect in the end that I will stay pure to the technique even if I stray somewhat from historical (and rather dangerous) pigments.

    Yes, I am having a wonderful time and planning my next study for this upcoming three day weekend.

  7. Great to catch up with you after we spent 2 weeks on holiday in your neck of the woods. Quite the Renaissance man you are becoming! I love this leaf-very mMdieval in feel.

  8. Nice to have you back, Judith! I wondered where you were off to. My neck of the woods? New England?

    I am having such fun with egg tempera!

  9. I can see you are having fun! Yes-New England-Cape Cod, Vermont, Hew Hampshire, Maine and Boston. Wonderful.

  10. Wow, you covered a lot of territory and you picked a great time--leaves are in great color and the Cape is off-season and quiet.