“He’s always on the wrong side of every door”

Rum Tum Tugger, egg tempera painting by Daniel Ambrose

Rum Tum Tugger, egg tempera with oil glazes

Ideas for paintings come from many sources.

This is one of my new egg tempera paintings currently available at Hughes Gallery in Boca Grande.  To see a larger image  click here.

Initially , I was attracted to the shadow pattern and the color of the wooden door. The cat was sleeping. When I began sketching, he woke up and glowered at me, than turned his head as if to pretend I wasn’t there.

It was a scene I wanted to do in tempera as soon as I saw it. Because it provided the opportunity to play with colors typically not found in nature and to explore a technique combining egg tempera with oil glazes. A method used in the 15th century in Europe as painters made the gradual transition from egg tempera to oil paint. Each have their merits. Oil paint was the exciting new thing then and could be manipulated in ways not possible with tempera, and it opened the way for new artistic expressions in paint.

As the centuries passed, egg tempera fell into disuse by succeeding painters when, in Britain, in the 1800’s, Latin texts from the Renaissance era were discovered and a revival began. It crossed over to America in the 20th century with painters like Andrew Wyeth, George Tooker and Robert Vickery rediscovering its unique qualities. With the viral dissemination of knowledge via the internet, it is coming into practice today.

I have been painting in egg tempera for over twenty years and still make new discoveries. It is a fascinating and frustrating medium to work in. Its fast and its slow and can be sublimely beautiful.

Recently, I’ve been researching some of the earlier techniques and dialoguing with conservators and art restorers from museums about incorporating oil with the egg. In all of my work, I am concerned with the durability and longevity of my paints and processes. I want to ensure that they stand the test of time.

So this modest cat painting is the first evidence of my research and thinking.  I’m excited to begin other paintings using this technique. While working on it, A line from T.S. Elliot about cats came to mind that seemed to fit this guy’s attitude.

The Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat:

If you offer him pheasant he would rather have grouse.
If you put him in a house he would much prefer a flat,
If you put him in a flat then he’d rather have a house.
If you set him on a mouse then he only wants a rat,
If you set him on a rat then he’d rather chase a mouse.
Yes the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat–
And there isn’t any call for me to shout it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there’s no doing anything about it!

The Rum Tum Tugger is a terrible bore:
When you let him in, then he wants to be out;
He’s always on the wrong side of every door,
And as soon as he’s at home, then he’d like to get about.
He likes to lie in the bureau drawer,
But he makes such a fuss if he can’t get out.

Yes the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat–
And there isn’t any use for you to doubt it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there’s no doing anything about it!

The Rum Tum Tugger is a curious beast:
His disobliging ways are a matter of habit.
If you offer him fish then he always wants a feast;
When there isn’t any fish then he won’t eat rabbit.
If you offer him cream then he sniffs and sneers,
For he only likes what he finds for himself;

So you’ll catch him in it right up to the ears,
If you put it away on the larder shelf.
The Rum Tum Tugger is artful and knowing,
The Rum Tum Tugger doesn’t care for a cuddle;
But he’ll leap on your lap in the middle of your sewing,
For there’s nothing he enjoys like a horrible muddle.
Yes the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat–
And there isn’t any need for me to spout it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there’s no doing anything about it!

T. S. Elliot

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