American Artist Daniel Ambrose

photo of artist Daniel Ambrose

Daniel Ambrose is an American artist known for his hauntingly beautiful egg tempera paintings.

A Florida native with an impressive career spanning over 25 years, self-taught painter Daniel Ambrose is a recognized master of the rare painting technique of egg tempera. An ancient painting method perfected by artists during the European Renaissance. To create his timeless egg tempera paintings, Ambrose makes his own paint from a 15th century Italian recipe, using egg yolks and natural earth pigments procured from around the world. His technique incorporates weaving hundreds of translucent layers of paint into a rich tapestry of subtle hues, creating serenely beautiful paintings that radiate a luminosity seldom attained by contemporary artists.

Throughout his career, Ambrose’s paintings have acquired numerous awards and are enjoyed by collectors in North America, Canada and Europe. His artworks are included in international, private and public permanent art collections including: S. James Foxman Justice Center, Bank of America, Florida Memorial Hospital, The cities of Eustis and Orlando, Daytona Beach International Airport, and the Permanent Collection of The Museum of Arts and Sciences. Selected museums that have exhibited Ambrose’s paintings include; the Jacksonville Museum of Art, Florida Capitol Museum, Leepna-Ratner Museum of Art, The Museum of Arts and Sciences and the Museum of Florida Art.

Daniel paints exclusively for galleries and a private collector list.

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Daniel Ambrose at 2 mos oldI was born in a small seaside town in Florida in 1957.  In those idyllic days, before air conditioning, cable and internet; reading and roaming outdoors from sunup to sundown, occupied my youth and nurtured my imagination. Long days on the beach and in the woods instilled in me a deep love for nature, and ultimately, ingrained a lifetime passion to express my feelings in paint.

I’ve been working in egg tempera for over twenty years, teaching myself from a translation of a 15th-century handbook of paint recipes. Initially, I was drawn to tempera out of a fascination with European medieval craftsmanship and a desire to master a classic technique used by the Renaissance painters.

Egg tempera is a slow, meditative process.  I make my paint from a 15th century recipe using natural earth pigments and egg yolks. My technique involves a subtle layering process. People often ask me how long it takes to paint a tempera. Honestly, each painting takes its own time, I never force it and often set a painting aside. A painting can take months or even years — I always have a string of them going.

To relieve the intense concentration a tempera demands, I also work in oil, painting plein air studies to gather sensory information which I use as reference for my temperas and major studio oil paintings. Painting plein air, and constantly drawing in my sketchbook are my primary means of keeping motivated and inspired. With no formal training, this is natural to me and the way I have always worked.

I paint because I am in love with life. I paint out of gratitude, a way to show my respect and honor this beautiful gift of life. With tempera, weaving thin translucent layers of paint into subtle, rich tapestries of color, becomes for me a metaphor of geological layers and complex human emotions. Egg is fragile, like life, a reminder of the fleeting moments that I seek to preserve in paint. Painting for me is a meditative process of understanding, more so, a spiritual approach to life.

“Daniel Ambrose’s Moon Dreams recalls the American Luminist painters of the mid 19th century, who attempted to capture dramatic or mysterious lighting effects for awe-inspiring impact.” – James J. Murphy / Plein Air to Post Modern, Curator.

Egg Tempera

Egg tempera painting is an ancient medium; egg has been used by humans as pigment binder for thousands of years. Scientific research shows the Egyptians used it two thousand years ago in painting the faces of their Terracotta Army. Works by the 12th century Byzantine painters survive today, and was used extensively by the Old Masters until oil painting matured in the 15th century. It is more labor-intensive than other mediums, although tempera offers wonderful results which are not duplicated by any other process.

Much of what is known about the Old Master’s techniques in egg tempera is recorded in a book by Italian painter Cennino D’Andrea Cennini in the 15th century. It was eventually translated into English by Yale University professor, Daniel Thompson Jr. in 1933. This time-proven method is the one I use today.

Egg tempera is defines as: the process of painting in which an albuminious medium (as egg yolk) is employed as a vehicle instead of oil. In order for paint to adhere to a surface, a binding medium containing an emulsion is necessary. Very simply, an emulsion is a mixture of water and oil. The naturally occurring emulsion within the egg creates a stable medium. The egg is prepared by separating the yolk from the white. The yolk sac is punctured and drained into a glass bowl, then mixed with one part distilled water and strained through a cheese cloth.

Historical pigments with intriguing names, such as Bohemian Green Earth and Pompeii Red are mined from the native earth of France, Italy and Cyprus, mines that once supplied the Old Masters of the Renaissance Period. The pigments are ground into a fine paste in distilled water and mixed with the egg medium on the palette until the desired consistency is reached. Egg yolk forms the glutinous substance that binds pigments to the surface of the panel, and the yellowness of the egg disappears immediately as the water evaporates. I apply it to a specially prepared gessoed panel in very thin translucent layers, each change of color carefully mixed and modulated in to the adjacent one. The paint dries instantly to the touch forming an elastic skin, completely curing in about a year. When fully dry, the surface of an egg tempera painting becomes extremely hard, capable of being polished to a satin finish.


By Annie Matlow

 The original fine art paintings by Florida native Daniel Ambrose capture the environmental treasures unique to Florida. Ambrose paints from the heart, drawing upon the things that are closest to him. Extensive travels throughout the United States have given him an appreciation for the rare beauty that only Florida holds. Sublime atmospheric landscapes illuminated in the clear Florida light, the aging elegance of homes weathered by decades under the southern sun, and the intricate forms of endangered wildlife are preserved on his canvas for generations to enjoy.

Working in the rich tradition of the egg tempera medium has allowed his work to take on a quality few artists of today have been able to achieve. The historic medium, used and perfected by the Old Masters centuries ago, combines dry powdered pigments from the earth with the rich consistency of egg yolks to create luminous hues. The richness of these natural colors allow Ambrose to capture the beautiful warm light inherent in his subjects in the same way Rembrandt used light to show intricacies of the human form. The combination of pure elements provides a perfect medium with which to capture Florida’s historic and fleeting beauty.
Ambrose egg tempera painting Willet birds
Ambrose has won the acclaim of judges and collectors as well as many awards of excellence and distinction for his work in this medium. Museum of Arts and Sciences, Executive Director Emeritus, Gary Libby states “Daniel Ambrose is a self taught representational artist who paints the vanishing coastal environments of Florida in richly painted egg tempera works of great mood and atmosphere.” One of the few artists invited to join the prestigious Florida Artist Group, Ambrose’s museum quality paintings are sought after and collected by corporate and private collectors throughout the US and Canada. In Florida his works can be found among the public collections of the City of Orlando, The Museum of Arts and Science’s Permanent Collection, the Volusia County Judicial Center and the Daytona Beach International Airport. Ambrose’s intimate association with his subject, entice him to capture not only the beauty and intrigue of Florida, but the true essence of Florida herself, a legacy of images that may only endure in his paintings.

Daniel’s instruction techniques have given me a sound foundation in the art of painting. He has shown me that the essence of using light is needed to achieve a successful effort. He is a gifted artist who captures nature on canvas in a beautiful manner. –  Dave H.

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