Jun 7, 2010
Painting Using Egg Tempera
By Sue Hulen
Want to try something really different and something that’s really cool? Have you ever tried painting with egg tempera? It seems a bit tricky in the beginning, but it’s something you will get used to pretty quickly.
Believe it or not artists were using egg tempera before oils came to be. There’s also egg tempera groups around the world who use nothing but tempera to paint. Check some of them out. Google some of the egg tempera societies out there. Interesting stuff.
Egg tempera is made from egg yolk and water and mixed with a pigment or gauche. I’ve only used gauche to mix the tempera. If you wish to use pigment, by all means use it.
Egg tempera gives the appearance of a subtle emboss. It lifts it just a bit off your surface and by using gauche it will make the colors brighter than contemporary watercolors and will also give it a sheen.
Here are the steps I use:
1. Separate your egg yolk from the egg white, making sure there is no egg white mixed in with the yolk.
2. Then place your egg yolk on a clean paper towel and sort of roll it to the edge (to make sure that there is no egg white left on the yolk) and then drop the egg yolk into a clean container that is large enough to also mix the gauche and water. A rule of thumb is that you would use 1 teaspoon of water for every large egg yolk. Some may mix it a bit differently.
3. Once your egg is mixed with the water you will want to mix it with your pigment or gauche. What I do is add about 4-5 drops of yolk to a small amount of gauche (maybe a ½ teaspoon) and mix well. I only mix small amounts at a time. You can use distilled water if you like. I use gauche because of the bright colors it has. I use it a lot for my calligraphy work.
4. Outline your desired design on you surface (I use paper) with either Indian ink or use a silver stylist and then start layering your colors. Let each layer dry before putting on another layer. If you choose not to layer and have a lighter more subtle effect to your colors than that’s your choice. Do what you choose to do, of course
5. If you don’t use all of the egg yolk you can keep it in a clean jar (covered) and place in refrigerator for a couple of days or so. Yolks tend to get dry rather quickly and you don’t want to use dry yolks! Make sure you put a note on the yolk container that it’s not for human consumption!! You wouldn’t want to eat it.
Please make a note to make sure if you are framing a painting done with egg tempera that you put at least one matt on it so that the glass on the frame does not touch the painting. You don’t want your tempera to get pressed. In fact, if you have it professionally framed you would want the framer to seal the glass. You don’t want it to get wet or let humidity invade the tempera and you don’t want it to start flaking.
I just thought this would be a fun thing for you to try if you were ever bored or wanted to experience other mediums. If you’d like to learn more about egg tempera just google or bing it. I’m sure there’s a lot of information out there for you to learn. Look at some paintings done in tempera. Try to remember to pay close attention to the brightness of the tempera and how it gives a “lifted/slight emboss” affect to it. They are truly lovely.
Until next time…..always remember to paint with your spirit and make someone’s heart smile when they view your lovely art.