Egg Tempera

This school year is almost over! Sadly, that means I only have a few more internship days left, so I've been scrambling to finish this master copy instead of writing my posts (sorry).

I have been SO excited to learn how to make egg tempera paint. I think during a time where technology is separating us from the things in our lives, it's nice to get back to old ways of making.

It was surprisingly easy? All you need is one egg, an ounce water, a few drops of white wine vinegar, and whatever pigment you want.

The only part of the egg you want is the yolk, so like with cooking, you can separate the yolk out by cracking the egg shell in two halves and passing the yolk back and forth between the two shells until the whites fall out into the sink. Careful not to let the yolk break! Once you have the yolk separated out, you can poke a hole in its skin and pour the yolk into a small container. Then, add in the water (so that the consistency is a little more liquid). The vinegar helps to preserve the yolk so you can use the batch for a few weeks as long as it's refrigerated.

When mixed with pigment and a bit more water, this egg emulsion becomes the perfect consistency to use for paint. Sometimes other ingredients like gum paste were added to the mixture, but this is the simplest recipe. I used some loose pigments as well as some watercolors and gouache which are basically just pigments with varying amounts of gum arabic as its binder.

The pigment shown in this picture is what I used for the “verdaccio.” Verdaccio is a greenish underpainting that helps skintones look more realistic. Because tempera is so thin, the verdaccio shows a bit through the pink skin tone layers, giving the skin another layer of depth.

So here's my master copy, about half way done:

This photo of it doesn't look too bad because I took the photo with a low-quality iphone camera, but up close, it looks pretty hairy. Literally - her face looks hairy! Tempera paint doesn't blend very well, so in order to create a gradient, you have to cross hatch different shades together. I’m bad at cross hatching even with a pen or pencil, so cross hatching in paint was even more challenging. The painting I'm copying is actually a copy of a portrait of Giovanna degli Albizzi Tornabuoni by Domenico Ghirlandaio. in a close up of that painting, you can see the long brush strokes and even a bit of the verdaccio.

Now it's on to the final details - wish me luck!


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