The Art of Egg Tempera Painting: Introduction
I taught myself the technique of painting in egg tempera about 30 years ago from a recipe written in the 15th century by the Italian artist Cennino Cennini.
While rummaging around an antiquated bookstore, I discovered a 1933 edition of The Craftsman’s Handbook. A translation by Yale professor Daniel Thompson. He taught a course in egg tempera painting, sparking an American revival of tempera painting among artists such as Andrew Wyeth, Robert Vickery, Peter Hurd and a few other notable artists.
I was astounded by the wealth of painting knowledge enclosed in this book. Before the internet it was difficult to find rich, yet obscure information, almost impossible if you weren’t even aware of its existence in a seaside Florida town.
Wanting to learn more, I headed for my pre-Google information portal—the local library. The librarian researched and found another book listed in a publishers catalog, The Practice of Tempera Painting, also by Daniel Thompson. I mailed in a check and for several weeks, eagerly awaited the book’s arrival in my mailbox.
Later, I supplemented my learning with books by Robert Vickery and George Tooker. Before the internet, scant information was available on egg tempera. For 2 years, working in solitude in my studio, on the banks of a sleepy Florida river, I gathered materials, researched and tested, before finally cracking an egg for my first complete egg tempera painting, Pelicans Flying Over Bulow.
I write little about the crafting aspect of my work. For me, the laborious steps of making the panels, gesso and paint is simply a necessary means to an end— paint and painting. However, it is this preparatory process that allows me to manifest my visions in paint.
For me, painting (and writing) are exploratory forms of authentic self-expression. A lifelong evolution of self-examination, learning, and discovery; trying to understand this miracle of life. Making sense of the sorrows and joys we all experience. I’m just stumbling through life, hopefully learning from my experiences, trying to be a more evolved person and painter.
I am more attuned to translating emotions and experience into art than talking shop here on my blog. With that aside, I’m writing a series of posts detailing my process of painting in egg tempera. I’ll publish them randomly, interspersing them with my usual musings. The series is titled The Art of Egg Tempera Painting.
Since I mostly share here more esoteric, reflective thoughts as part of my creative process, I’ll be curious to know if you find the hands on side of my work a teeny bit interesting, helpful or inspiring.