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Jen Delyth

Celtic Art Studio

Official Site of Welsh Artist

EGG TEMPERA PAINTING by Jen Delyth

EGG TEMPERA PAINTING by Jen Delyth
I really love painting with traditional Egg Tempera. Its an ancient paint medium - used as far back as the Egyptians - and not only lasts better than most other mediums, but has a lovely luminous quality.

I mix egg yolk (seperated from the white) with a little water, and then mix in ground pigments - such as earths, and vermillion (my favorite! but a bit poisonous!), and even some ground gemstones (such as lapis lazuli!)

I used to make my own boards, and my own Gesso from Rabbit Skin Glue and white chalk, but these days, I enjoy buying the beautifully gessoed boards from a Russian Icon painting store.

Of course, everything starts with a rough sketch! Then the paints create their own magic...

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Although the medieval Celts enjoyed using the egg white with ground pigments, and painting on vellum - which is very thin soft calf skin - I find that the egg tempera suits my needs and inspires me with the beauty of the pigments, and I can rework parts of the paintings as they grow, or layer over with translucent thin layers.


Here is one of my favorites that I painted by the estuary at Point Reyes - that reminds me of where I grew up in South Wales.
Manawyddan ap Llyr

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My favorite part of the painting process is towards the end - when - and it takes a bit of confidence to do this after sometimes weeks of work! - I dive in with a very sharp dental tool, and "scratch" patterns through the soft paint, sometimes down to the first layer, which I usually make a light gold color.

I taught myself how to paint with the egg tempera, because after enjoying oil painting for years, I found I was fairly allergic to the solvents. Egg tempera was until the 1500s the medium of choice, and then oils were glazed on top, and then just oils were used... So egg tempera was very useful to me as an underpainting - which uses the most solvents in the oil painting process.

Soon after my first painting, I hesitated to add the oil glaze on the top.

I loved the matt finish, the luminous life to the paints...

I did do an oil glaze over that first piece - but the next one I kept just as it was - an egg tempera painting~!

HEre are some stages involved in building up the painting!


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updated: 4 months ago