Egg Tempera My Best Friend
When I was at a crossroads in my art career, I had thought I had hit a brick wall on being different or relevant as an artist. I had tried all the typical fine art materials that I had been trained to use throughout the years. I had tried pastels, designer gauche, acrylics, watercolor, oils, graphite pencil, frescos, and oddly enough house paint.
I began my training in New York at Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. At the time I though textile design was my end game. While I worked in New York in both the garment and theater district designing fabrics. There were no computers in the 1980s, and everything was done by hand. I know it is impossible to believe, but yes everything was done by hand without the use of computers.
In the 90’s I launched my own mural company in Denver, Colorado. I worked with interior designers creating custom decorative wall finishes, frescos, and murals. I met two wonderful artists, who later would become dear friends when I participated in the Denver Symphony Parade of Homes. They introduce me to new materials, and I asked them to help on various projects. I learned how to scale up my images for large interior walls. Some clients even asked to me to include their portraits in the custom murals I designed for them, and yes this is where I used house paints. This led me to do custom portraits on canvas and paper for several years.Strange how artists materials can lead to other discoveries along an artist’s path.
OK, here is the crossroads part. I moved to Laguna Beach in July of 2009. I had gone to all the Arts Festivals with my family and friends. I fell in love with all the art shows and made my observations hoping for inspiration. I saw all the mediums the artists used for these shows. I saw the talent, and I made it a goal to show my work eventually at one of the three art festivals. I felt frustrated, confronted with insecurity, and yes challenged! Up until this point, I had created all my art by hand, and there didn’t seem like there were many material options left.
I sat down and made a list. On one side I listed everything I felt I was good at and on the other hand everything that I found interesting about the materials I had already used. This is where the computer came in handy, finally! I looked back in art history and at all of the of paintings styles from A to Z that would inspire me. My question was,”What artist materials can I use that are both decorative, unique and will showcase my conservationist ideals? My research led to the Illuminated Manuscripts of the Renaissance 13th to 15th centuries. Some of the same materials were in my artist’s tool belt, but egg tempera was brand new. It may sound easy but figuring out how to use these unique materials took almost a year before I got the swing of things. I practiced calligraphy and illuminating letters daily. The egg tempera was an alien lifeform at first, and I almost gave up. I wanted to throw the material up against the wall. I needed help. Thanks to the Egg Tempera guru, artist Koo Schadler for “The Egg Tempera Painting Book.” After I received that book, Egg Temper became my new best friend.
Detail from Illuminated Mandala entitled, “Peace On Earth” by Wildlife Illumination Artist Judith Haron.
At its peak during the Renaissance, the development of Egg Tempera paints was a direct result of need vs necessity by the artisans. They needed to add more body to their water-based paints of the day. Pigments grounds of natural Earth elements were used for the color base, egg yolk for the body, and refined oils along with water make up the components that form Egg Tempera Paints.
Detail of Wildlife Illuminated Mandala in process entitled “Dreamer,” by Wildlife Illumination artist Judith Haron.
Egg Tempera is known for its linear qualities and capacity to produce jewel-like paintings. Next to the gold leaf, it is the most beautiful art form I have ever had a chance to fall in love with. Yes, I reached my goal of showing my Endangered Wildlife Illuminated Art Works at the summer 2014 Sawdust Arts Festival in Laguna Beach California!