© Gainor E. Roberts 2014 All the works of art shown in the website are protected by the Copyright Laws of the United States of America and may only be used by permission of the artist.


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There is something magical about mixing raw pigment with egg yolk and painting with it. Somehow, it always hooks me into the history of making art…going back to the beginning of human civilization. I knew vaguely about egg tempera when I was in high school and in my wanderings in the Philadelphia Art Museum I would see “Egg Tempera” on labels and wonder what in the world it meant.

Many years later I read an article in one of the art magazines about Andrew Wyeth and his use of egg tempera… I would have sworn he used oil paint…but what did I know then? Using the methods described in that article I spent quite a few years using watercolors as if they were Egg Temperas, only without the egg yolks. I was finally pleased with watercolor, as my efforts before that time were muddy and dull.

I am indebted to my cousin Alison Kent, who learned to use egg tempera in calligraphy workshops in Cambridge. We lived close enough so we could visit often, and she persuaded me to get over the notion that it was so difficult.

I decided to give it a try when I was undergoing a particularly difficult time in my life; we had to move to Florida after losing all our money in the stock market crash of 2001. I realized, unhappily, that my New England art career didn’t follow me to Florida. My husband was in intensive care, in what was the first of many near death experiences, and I was cleaning the barbeque in an attempt to keep my mind focused. I thought “well, you have been threatening to get into Egg Tempera for so long, why not now?” So I put down the scrub brushes and rubber gloves and went directly to the computer to order my first round of supplies, from Daniel Smith armed with my copy of Ralph Mayer’s “The Artists’ Handbook” and little else.

Later, using a book written by Altoon Sultan (The Luminous Brush) about the process of making a secular egg tempera painting (Icons, have traditionally used egg tempera for centuries), I went to work in my closet which was, at the time, an annex to my tiny studio, where I had my drawing board and my egg tempera pigments and watercolor brushes.

Egg yolk acts like a glue that “binds” the pigment particles to the gesso panel, and to each successive layer. The paint must be applied in very thin glazes, never thick, and often in tiny little cross-hatched strokes because this paint, diluted with water, dries instantly. I have learned from master painter, Koo Schadler, how to apply paint with a cosmetic sponge which is a huge time saver.

Many people confuse the word “tempera” with “tempura”. The former means “to blend or mix” and the latter is something Japanese people eat.

Pigments come from the earth, plants, rocks, minerals, and various chemical formulations. For the artist they come in powdered form, ground by producers, from all parts of the globe, and they are as exotic as Lapis Lazuli gemstones, or as common as red clay in a stream bed. These ground pigments form the basis of all paints. The binder is generally what makes one paint different from another; watercolor, acrylic, oil, latex, etc.

If you click here you can go to Books, Monographs and Instruction Manuals and if you want to obtain a copy of “A Modern Approach to Egg Tempera” you may do so with PayPal on that page.

If you want to see a PowerPoint presentation about Egg Tempera painting click here.