Sunday, July 31, 2011

Creating a Background

During my egg tempera workshop, I spent hours developing the background for my egg and stone painting. It was coming along so nicely with rich color and luminosity. I was polishing lightly with cheesecloth every few layers and noticed that I wore down close to the gesso base in the center of the board. Koo mentioned that I probably didn't have enough pigment--sure enough, as I worked radially to the center I was putting down fewer layers. So then I tried to build it all back up and did so rather quickly. As usual, moving too fast with egg tempera set me way back. I never did get back that wonderful background.

Today I began an attempt to capture that depth and luminosity. This first image with camera doesn't do justice--I had a hard time getting away from glare.

This second image was off the scanner bed, a few hours later than the image above. There must be close to thirty layers here. I'll be pushing the darks down a bit more.

I've tentatively planned a lily for the foreground. This week I'll be working on sketches and planning the composition and will adjust the highlighted center accordingly. Today's work was so meditative. No rushing, just a steady mixing of various pigments and gently applying well-thinnned layers.


  1. You seem to have reached a Zen-like meditative approach to this background. It seems to be very much an in the moment kind of work.It's great when you can become utterly absorbed in something that is both satisfying and productive.

  2. This particular post reminds of a while back when Val posted about "slow drawing" and the satisfaction that came with it; I just did a search on her blog for it and was doubly pleased when I reread her words as she also talks about YOU and when you first discovered pencil and how just the simple act of sharpening the pencil in preparation of drawing was akin to mediation for you; how wonderful that you have experienced such growth since then and how wonderful that you have held onto what is important in this creative life we have chosen for ourselves.
    ~ gretchen

  3. It is great, Judith, when all the thinking slips away and I can just do my thing. I guess part of it is that I am starting to become comfortable with various aspects of this medium. Well mostly, as I still get into my racing mode, go to fast, and create setbacks. Just like late last night when I should have left the board alone and ended up putting down a "too eggy" layer. I'm working on clearing that up now. It's okay and a very good lesson. Tempera can be quite talkative when one listens, and late last night it told me to pay attention and slow down.

  4. You have one great memory there, Gretchen. I think of that post often; that drawing is hung in my office. Egg tempera needs a slow and steady attention and hasn't the slightest problem letting one know when that attention wanes. I enjoy laying down coat after coat, slowly beginning to believe that a layer that is barely detectable really is making a difference. I am planning to allow myself to simply make backgrounds for a time if that is my bend, if it allows me to feel the process of building a beautiful finish. I find it somewhat akin to wood finishing, watching grain come to life.