Remain, 22×28, egg tempera and oil on Ampersand Claybord
Caroline Adams, an egg tempera artist, discovered Claybord for her abstract landscape artwork. Inspired by the many places she has lived, her work draws from the colors, shapes, and lines of each place.
“I find Gessobord to be an ideal painting surface: smooth, even, and with the perfect amount of tooth. I don’t know about any other panel out there that is both archival and sustainably sourced, two factors which are very important to me!” ~Madeline von Foerster Madeline von Foerster, American born artist living in Germany, carefully plans and executes with beautifully rendered detail “living still lifes.” Madeline has perfected the 15th century Flemish Master technique, mische, working in layers of egg tempera and oils to achieve a glowing work which is realistic but also breathtakingly luminous. Madeline explains her love of both the media and subject matter in her artist statement, sharing that meaning and beauty are the two cornerstones of her work.
Untitled (Pangolin), 36″ x 36″, 2012
Madeline has always felt the pull as an artist, drawing being a favorite thing for as long as she can remember. With steady encouragement from her family, Madeline pursued art school studying at the California College of Arts and Crafts and with Philip Rubinov-Jacobson. Her education and patience exude through her exquisite detail and process. Before Madeline worked in the “mixed technique” or mische, she pursued oils “ala prima” for many years. She shares further, “I was a huge fan of the Flemish Renaissance Masters, but when I tried to emulate their effects (glowing colors and crystalline details), I had the feeling I was missing out on some crucial information. It was next to impossible to achieve what they did using my methods and materials, and the attempt was an unrewarding ordeal.” Upon learning of Professor Philip Rubinov-Jacobson’s seminar in Austria, she signed up immediately. The style resonated with her, and Madeline has worked over 50 paintings in the mische technique since.
Bufo Periglenes, 8″ x 8″, 2011
With Madeline’s appreciation for creating a quality painting in style and technique, she has found the perfect match in Gessobord, a well made, quality panel that will stand the test of time. “Good materials are part of an artist’s necessary support system – they are part of what allows an artist to do his or her best work. Good brushes, panels, and paints are more pleasurable to use and provide superior results – but also, most importantly, they don’t get in the way,” she explains. On her website, Madeline gives a detailed explanation and work in progress photographs of how her paintings are completed. You can see her rendering, underpainting, layers of egg tempera and oil paint. Madeline also lists her upcoming shows, press and other events. All things Ampersand, Karyn Meyer-Berthel Artist & Social Media Specialist Ampersand Art Supply
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Most egg tempera work is done in a cross hatching style, as the paint dries so quickly. The paint lends itself to drawing lines, rather than the soft buttery laying down that oil allows. But, Mark Meunier works his technique almost like oils, choosing a primary palette, glazing with the medium and working realistically. Mark has taken the difficulty and tension out of egg tempera and created a technique that anyone can use. Choosing a primary palette of eight colors, white, yellow ochre, yellow, orange, red, prussian blue, burnt sienna, and ultramarine blue, Mark created a simple palette with small cups of pigment laying around the borders. On the corner, a cup of egg yolk and a bit of water mixed waits for dipping. He doesn’t grind down each color first as is the tradition of egg tempera, but instead, mixes his colors on the palette.
There isn’t a formula, he says, for the exact amount of egg and water to mix, but getting all of the egg white off the yolk is vital. Roll the yolk around on a paper towel before using and add water, no need to worry about distilled water or organic fresh farm eggs, either. Just use what you have, and create an emulsion that works.
Working on an absorbent surface, like Claybord™ is best, as the egg needs something to soak into to adhere correctly. Traditional gesso was the original substrate that Mark used, but he found that Claybord works very well and he doesn’t have the laborious process of making his own gesso.
Lastly, varnishing isn’t necessary, but egg tempera is soft and sensitive, so it is up to the artist. Do note, however, that varnishing will change the piece as it will pop the colors. Egg tempera has soft darks, more muted hues, and varnishing will alter the piece.
“I work in egg tempera, a medium that can strike fear in too many artists who love the effects but after doing a little research have come away mind boggled with too many ‘do’s and don’ts’ . Over the years I’ve simplified the whole egg-tempera thing and love to pass on this demystified technique. Interestingly some people out there say you have to make your own boards, or buy ‘true gesso’ panels, [but] Claybord works very well, much better than any board I use to make.” ~Mark Meunier There are only a handful of professional artists working in egg tempera, and even fewer that have worked in the medium as long as Massachusetts artist Mark Meunier. Even more astounding is that Mark taught himself the medium back in 1978 when oil painting wasn’t giving him the effects he wanted. He was aiming for more realism and wanted something quicker than oils. With the almost instant drying time of egg tempera and the beauty that Andrew Wyeth captured with them, it seemed the ideal choice.
At the time, he knew of Andrew Wyeth and Robert Vickery painting in egg tempera, so he ordered Vickery’s book, New Techniques in Egg Tempera, and began his own journey. At first, Mark created his own traditional gesso with rabbit skin glue, whiting, and titanium dioxide pigment, working on masonite. He would grind each pigment down into an egg emulsion. With traditional egg tempera, each change in color within an object is actually a different hue rather than a tint or shade, quite a laborious process to grind each. He found that the paints dried quickly, too, on their own, and the panel making was tedious.
However, since egg tempera needs a highly absorbent surface, there are few options to choose from for substrates. Claybord™ solved the problem. Mark explains that he did have to make a small adjustment to painting on Claybord as the surface is slightly different than rabbit skin glue gesso, but Claybord is highly absorbent, affordable and easy to work with. As he evolved to using the Claybord, Mark also altered how he went about using egg tempera. Instead of grinding each pigment down into the egg emulsion, he now wets his brush with the emulsion and dips the wetted out tip into a bit of pigment, mixing on his palette small puddles of paint at a time. This way, his working paints stay moist. Instead of mixing different hues for each object, Mark sticks with a palette of eight colors and works mixing those pigments to attain his colors, much like his oil painting background.
With the translucent layers of egg tempera, objects form out of the two dimensional space, a concept that Mark hones constantly. He continues his evolution as a painter by reaching his loyal audience through new subjects and ever bettering what he already knows well, taking realism a step further.
Many of the beautiful paintings from the Renaissance were done in egg tempera. Egg tempera is a brilliant, semi-translucent paint that dries almost instantly. This will have a profound effect on the artists painting style as it does not lend itself to washes, wet-into-wet, or oil-style blending techniques. Instead, egg tempera is best suited to short, overlapping strokes using cross-hatching for blending and toning effects.
Claybord is particularly receptive to this durable and vibrant pigment. The smoothness and absorbency of the surface is very similar to a ‘traditional’ gesso panel made with chalk and hide glue. Egg tempera requires the use of a rigid surface to prevent cracking and aging.
The key to working with egg tempera on Claybord is a) how you lay down the first layers of paint and b) ensuring that you allow each layer to dry before beginning your detail work.
When using egg tempera, begin by using three to four thin washes of paint washed over the entire panel, allowing paint to dry thoroughly between layers. The first four layers should dry overnight to allow good adhesion for subsequent layers. Use a very large brush and stay away from detail work in the beginning stages. Outline the shapes and shadows to position the subject matter where desired in this stage. After the preparatory layers are finished, alternate to smaller brushes narrowing down the clarity of the forms and subject matter. Continue painting in thin layers and allow adequate drying time between layers. Gradually increase the paint thickness as the layers develop. Repeat the previous step many times gradually narrowing the size of the brushes. When the final stages have been reached, a brush as small as #00 should used to create precise detail. The paint consistency in the final stages should be relatively thick so that the vibrancy and character of egg tempera is thoroughly enhanced. Varnish after adequate drying time is complete and frame.