In my science and art class we have been learning about different kinds of paint: how to make them and how to use them. I’ve only ever painted with watercolors and acrylics, so it was my first time using fresco, egg tempera, and oil paints. Egg tempera is traditionally a linear method of painting. The light, translucent colors are well suited to paintings on the lighter end of the value scale which have linear details. Things like feathers and light hair are good things to paint with egg tempera.
To make an egg tempera painting, you first need to prepare your surface. You need to cover a very smooth surface, like sanded wood, with a traditional gesso made from white powder, water, and a glue made from rabbit skin.
To make the paint, you take ground pigments, and mix them with equal parts of egg yolk. No whites. You need to separate the white from the yolk, and then, holding the yolk by the membrane, (GENTLY!!) use a pin to poke a hole in the bottom of the menbrane (holding it over a container) and the yolk will fall right out!
Egg tempera can be thinned down with water and painted on in light washes of color, but like I said earlier, hatching and crosshatching is preferred. I am more accustomed to water-colors and so I tended to use the egg tempera like a watercolor, and I did a lot of washes. The painting on the right is what I made. It’s a little 3×3 inch panel of a sun-burnt bunny.
Because egg tempera is so translucent, it’s almost impossible to cover mistakes. You can’t go lighter once you’ve build up an area with darks. (At least not easily) Also, egg tempera needs to be used up right away because the egg will spoil and the paint will be unusable. It also dries quickly and can be washed out of your clothes.
I’d say that for my first time using it, I didn’t do too terribly, but I still have a lot to learn before I am ready to do a real painting in this medium.
You can visit eggtempera.org to find out more about egg tempera’s history and how it is made.
But there’s even more detail about making and using egg tempera at eggtempera.com!