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  #1  
Old 26-03-09, 02:55 PM
Alastair S. Alastair S. is offline
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Unhappy New Egg Tempera Artist Problems.

Hello everyone,

I recently started learning Egg Tempera, having had only self-taught oil painting experience before, and I think that I am having problems due to the differences between the two medium.

I have read the Daniel Thompson book on Egg Tempera, and will be reading soon his translation of Cennini's Book, but I have attempted to start some icon paintings and run into nothing but stress so far. Here are a couple of issues I'm having:

1. Sometimes when I go to paint over an area the paint beneath comes right off the gesso, exposing a white area.

2. When I tried to paint a glaze over an entire area the paint beneath got moist again and started to blend with the paint above, making a muddy mess.

I must confess that I started with non-traditional methods. For example, my paint is high quality goache (hope it's spelled right) mixed with egg yolk and water, rather than pigment, egg, and water. And my gesso is drywall compound mixed with white glue. I'm definitely going to switch to traditional materials, but in the meantime I'm wondering whether it's my methods or my materials that have caused the above problems. I wasn't sure whether the white glue made the surface too non-absorbent and the paint wasn't grasping well enough (my surface is sanded very smooth and hard). I also wasn't sure whether problems were caused from the inherent qualities of goache as opposed to just pure pigment, but an experiences egg tempera artist told me goache would do just as well pretty much. Finally, I wasn't sure whether any of my problems were caused by adding too much egg. I thought that more egg would make the underneath less likely to 'bleed' into the above glaze, but it definitely doesn't seem to prevent that.

Sorry for the very long post, but any help that anyone can give into why I am experiencing the above problems, and possible solutions, would be very appreciated.
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  #2  
Old 27-03-09, 03:25 PM
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PhilS PhilS is offline
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Hi Alastair,
Short answer: traditional gesso and powdered pigments. Even with those, you will experience paint "pick-up" problems. Work with your brush squeezed out very dry and keep your brush moving. If you work too long in one area you will start picking up the paint in the underpainting. Just let it dry completely and start over again.
Glazing large areas is tricky. Let the painting set for a week or two before glazing and, again, work fast- don't overwork a specific area or the underpainting will lose its adhesion to the gesso.
Squeeze your brush dry, keep the brush moving, use traditional, time-tested materials.
Good luck,
Phil
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Old 28-03-09, 12:23 PM
Alastair S. Alastair S. is offline
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Thanks for the answer, Phil. I've bought a bunch of pigments and some rabbit skin glue. I'm just having a little trouble now finding some of the other traditional materials for making the gesso. If anyone in Toronto knows of a good store for this, please let me know. I've found a 'traditional gesso' dry mix in Curry's Art Store, which contains rabbit glue, crushed marble, and titanium white. It's by Fredrix, but I'm not sure about the quality.

One other question, it seems to me that, by looking at step by step instructions and pictures from people's egg tempera paintings, that although an egg tempera painting starts off with a very 'cross-hatching' look to it, that with glazes it can eventually turn into a more smoothly shaded look. If someone could please verify this for me I would appreciate it. Unfortunately most paintings displayed do not contain a close up detail picture of the final product.
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Old 28-03-09, 01:46 PM
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Koo Schadler Koo Schadler is offline
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Hello Alastair,

As mentioned in other postings, the quality of the glue is paramount (see the discussion "First ET Painting, Progress Series" begun by Mat G). I've used Fredrix's dry mix. It makes a hard gesso (which is a fine- just a matter of personal preference) but I'm not confident of the quality of their glue. But its a start, and certainly a million times better than not using true gesso.

There are plenty of resources in the US for high quality gesso ingredients, many of which are listed n the supplier page of this Forum. I can also recommend www.naturalpigments.com. But it seems, from what I've read from other postings, that this is problematic for Canadians as the shipping costs are so high. Is this true? I'd be interested in hearing from you Canadian et painters about getting your supplies.

The "look" you develop in tempera is a matter of personal preference. That look ranges from visible, intentional cross hatching...to very smoothly blended surfaces...and every step in between. The cross hatched look is more inherent to tempera, as it is a linear medium. Your paint dries quickly, and hence in the form of the brushstroke with which it was applied. It can be a lovely effect, like weaving. Tempera is less conducive to getting a more smoothly blended surface, so it takes more time but can be done. The trick is to apply paint thinly (so you don't leave too much of a mark), build up many, many of these these thin layers (which optically blend together eventually), and periodically unify things under glazes and scumbles. The latter two can be difficult to apply smoothly, but I've found that with thinned paint and either a wide watercolor brush, or cosmetic sponges, I can apply unifying glazes of color, or scumbles of transparent white, and leave minimal marks. Make sure to control the amount of paint on your brush or sponge. It takes practice. That's the other part of blending smoothly....lots of practice. I tend to go the smoothly blended route, and would post a close-up example here, but I am a computer neanderthal and don't know how to do so. But I can email you an image if you like.
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Old 29-03-09, 12:36 AM
Alastair S. Alastair S. is offline
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Thank you for the reply, Koo. I shall check out the website that you listed. If shipping costs seem to be a bit prohibitive to Canada then I will give Fredrix's Dry Mix a shot. I'll probably get some to try anyways, as I'm eager to restart another painting and shipping might take a while. I will let you know about how much shipping charges are when I check it out. I will PM you my email address and would be very indebted to you (as I am already for your help) if you could email me an image of a detail of an ET painting.
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Old 29-03-09, 01:24 PM
dbclemons dbclemons is offline
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Kama Pigments in Montreal also carries the separate raw materials you need for gesso. I don't know if they have marble dust, but do have calcium carbonate. Their rabbit skin glue is good quality.
http://www.kamapigments.com/
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  #7  
Old 11-04-09, 08:03 PM
Paul B Paul B is offline
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Hello Alistair,

I am coming at your problem from a different angle. I hope you don't think that this reply is too simplistic but it illustrates a misunderstanding I had when I started using et. If you are tempering your paints correctly but it it still coming off, perhaps you are trying to revive semi dry paint on your pallet by re-wetting it. Unlike water colours you can not do this with et because it has 'set' chemically. If you add water to this dry or semi-dry paint it will have reduced or no binding power and will come off the panel in the way you describe.
I am sticking my neck out a little here, as this is very basic and I don' t wish to insult you, but I have found most et instructions do not make this point clear enough and other et painters may assume that you already know it.
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Old 12-04-09, 07:38 PM
Alastair S. Alastair S. is offline
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Hi Paul,

Thanks for the response. You are not insulting me, any help is great as I am very new to E.T. painting. I have tried to revive semi-dry paint on my palette by re-wetting it. I assumed that unless it had completely set it would be ok to do this, for as you know it dries very fast and I'm never quick enough painting before my colours start to dry. I shall try to remedy this situation. I'm used to oil paint which as you know takes ages to dry, so I'm not yet accustomed to fast drying paints.

Thanks again.
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  #9  
Old 13-04-09, 04:56 PM
Paul B Paul B is offline
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Alistair,
I use a china palette with relatively small (in diameter) but deep indents in it. In this I put a good amount of yolk mixed with pigment and quite a lot of water; a dilute mix is recommended for et painting anyway so this works out fine. When I go to lunch or nip off to make a cup of tea I cover the whole pallet with something like an old plastic DVD box. In this way the paint will last all day.
When I use up a particular colour, I make sure I clean out the indent thoroughly with a damp rag before putting more paint in, because the dregs of the paint left in the pallet will dry very quickly and must be disposed of. In this way my paint is always good to use, as long as I avoid the paint drying around the edge of each indent.
If you need a lot of colour you could even mix it all up at the beginning of the session and use it throughout the day if it is suficiantly diluted, and covered up.
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  #10  
Old 20-04-09, 04:35 PM
Alastair S. Alastair S. is offline
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Hi Paul,

Sorry for the late reply. Thanks for the suggestions.
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