Friday, October 8, 2010


Supports for egg tempera come in a few flavors--hardboard, wood panel, and plywood. Hardboard is tricky as only the untempered is considered archival and it seems that most these days have some kind of treatment. Wood panel is cool as long as there's no splitting. Good quality plywood, and probably with some backing support strips, sounds to be ideal.

I have two supports coming in from Natural Pigments. The birch panel is actually a sheet of birch plywood with backing support strips. Here's a picture that links back to the catalog. It's a real beauty, isn't it?

Along with this panel is coming a half dozen gesso boards. These are untempered hardboard fully coated and ready to go. Well, almost ready...

Koo Schandler's post on the EggTempera site explains that gesso boards need to be carefully examined for scratches and pin holes. Light sanding and wetting to smooth the pin holes should take care of that. Next the edges should be chamfered to prevent chipping--NP's board come chamfered so that's done already! Lastly, the board needs degreasing with a wipe down with denatured alcohol.


  1. Visiting this blog at the moment is like walking down a street full of bookshops and toolshops with *SALE* written in every window ...

    Looking at your lovely clean blank birch board makes me sure that tempera painting is the future for mankind :-) or at least the future for a portion of income-to-come.

    Very interesting about the surface treatment and chamfering -- the equivalent (for me) of sanding and pouncing vellum. Before watercolour paper and prepared canvas, artists must have spent some time readying their surface (and simultaneously themselves) for painting. A good opportunity to study the medium and plan what elements should lie where. One of the pleasures of using animal skin is to work with the existing grain and pattern of the surface. The whole point of gesso is to eliminate irregularites. I don't know whether it was Morris himself of the Arts&Crafts movement who came up with the idea of gessoing vellum to make the Kelmscott version, or whether he got it from a past painter -- I must find out whether the gesso-ey stuff used on it is the same as what's applied to your board, and, if so, how it behaves while flexing as a page in a book.

  2. Stay ready, as we have more shopping ahead of us! :-)

    I find the slow and steady processes appealing. Slipping back into a time and world where hurry has no place...

    Regarding gesso on flexible supports, my limited reading seems to point to the need for stable supports, at least when it comes to egg tempera. Decomposing the gesso to pigment and binder, perhaps the chalk or gypsum might be used, but with something other than the hide glue (rabbit glue) binder?

    What a fascinating world here. Questions continually popping up as more is learned. This is living! :-)