07 November 2006

Egg tempera

is a type of paint made by mixing pigment with egg yolk.* This week I've been working on an egg tempera study (several figures copied from paintings by Fra Angelico), to use as a demo piece for the Renaissance painting workshop I'm doing at Wetcanvas and for an egg tempera class my wife and I will be teaching at a Society for Creative Anachronism event this Saturday.

I hadn't done much tempera in the last year. I forgot what a beautiful medium it is. The painting process is to apply many fine hatching strokes with a dry brush, building up value slowly in a manner similar to working with a graphite pencil. The result is unlike any other medium. At first it's frustrating, because I make a lot of little mistakes. Drat! I have too much paint on the brush. Akk! There's still too much paint. Gah! I'm painting over an area that's still wet and the paint is coming up. If you are trying to build tone, you gradually weave strokes back and forth, back and forth. You get into a kind of mental zone and suddenly it looks exactly right.

I need to do more tempera painting.

*If you are unfamiliar with painting media, please don't confuse egg tempera with "tempera" poster paints for children. Other than being kinds of paint, they have nothing at all to do with each other.


Jeff said...

Hi David-

I wanted to thank you for your thoughts here on your blog as well as over on Cennini- as a young artist I really appriciate this kind of knowledge that I didn't get in school!

Do you know the origins of the two different temperas and why they are named the same?

Cheers, Jeff

David said...


You're welcome.

I don't know why poster paint is called "tempera." I imagine someone thought it would be a good name for marketing purposes, just like acrylic primer is called "gesso" even though it's not.