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Painting with Egg White or Yoke or Both August 13, 2015

Posted by anagasto in art, painting.
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Those artists painted their pictures directly on the wall of a castle or a church. Sometimes they painted on wooden boards, too.

To paint on plaster, they used colours diluted in water and they painted when the plaster was still wet. It is a difficult technique. It took even Michelangelo very long to learn and his first experiments got mouldy.

Later, to make their colors stick on wood, the artists mixed them with water and egg-white or egg-yoke or both. You can easily try it out on cardboard or wood. It is called Tempera painting.

angelico_annunciation

The two people walking  on the left of the angel are Adam and Eve getting thrown out of Paradise. They are the beginning of the story sequenced at the base of the painting.

fra-angelico-fragment2

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In that painting at the top the angel tells the Virgin that God has chosen her to be the mother of Jesus.  Fra Angelico made many different versions:

Fra_Angelico_Annunciation

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….Fra_Angelico_046 water colours on  wet plaster

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egg colours on wood

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tn_fra-angelico-annunciation

Egg-white will give your painting a more silvery shine. The yoke makes it look golden. In the past the colors were powdered materials found in sand, rocks, and in the earth: the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli for blue, or a copper ore for green, or earth scooped right out of the ground (sienna, umber, terra verte, Naples yellow). Sometimes they used real gold.

White was lime and black was charcoal, and every artist had his secrets about how to mix them.

Now, to try it out, you would probably mix egg and water colours. Chalk and even pastels work really well.

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How to do it:  Scrape some colour off a piece of chalk or from a watercolour tablet. Break open an egg … … get a little water and some egg on your brush … … mix that with your colour particles. That’s your paint. — Very little egg at a time. If you put it on too thick, it will crack or even peel. It dries fast. You get shades and depth by putting on various layers.

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sappho pompeii

The older way, much more difficult, is called fresco. A layer of sand mixed with lime is spread over the wall and painted with water colours while the mix is still wet or fresh – fresco in Italian. It is similar to water painting: the wall absorbs the paints and when it is dry, the colors are somehow (a chemical change) fused with the lime and cannot rub off anymore.

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Fresco dates back to Greece and Rome and beyond. There were fresco paintings also in Egyptian tombs and in the pyramids. “Sappho” above and a complete house wall below are both from Pompeii.

house wall Pompei-fresco

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The world’s most famous frescoes are probably Michelangelo’s at the Sistine Chapel that took him years to paint and very nearly drove him into despair :

adam-sistine-michelangelo

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Comments»

1. Anonymous - November 6, 2012

EXCELLENT INFORMATION! Francesca


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