Sunday, June 14, 2009

"How to Mix Egg Tempera Medium," my video demo

I want to mention that my work from my recent post on miniature eye portraits has moved over to my newest blog, "Eye Portraits in Miniature," so please feel welcome to visit there to see further paintings by me on this topic in the future.

I hoped to post this video last weekend, but I went briefly out of town, so here, as promised, is my demonstration showing how I mix my medium for egg tempera painting, the medium I am using for my panel painting-in-progress of Kimberly, and which I have used for most of my paintings since my first introduction to it in 1976.

Obviously a demo like this can only scratch the surface, but I hope it may tempt you to try this wonderful medium! For more information on working with egg tempera I also highly recommend a visit to the Society of Tempera Painters website and it's informative discussion forum about the medium. Also, see my additional tips in the post above this one, and in the comments column.


Barbara A. Freeman said...

Hi Mona, Thanks so much for this! I posted your blog link on the miniature yahoo forum. You may have visits from some of the people over there who are interested in egg tempra. It was really an informative demo and thanks for all the fine details. Do you use a new egg yolk every new day you paint, or do they keep and for how long? Thanks for the link.

Mona said...

Barbara, you're welcome, glad to know that it was helpful and thanks so much for posting about this link on the forum.

Good question,---if the egg is still clean enough after a session (sometimes too much pigment enters the scene) I often cap and refrigerate it overnight for a second session the following day, or even for two days if I'm low on eggs, and if it smells fresh. I don't like to keep it longer than this, and the general goal is to work with a fresh enough mixture.

Kathleen Coy said...

I really enjoyed watching the video, Mona. It was so nice to get to see you and hear you talk. :-)

I have (or used to have - I've not seen it around for a while) that book you were holding up in the beginning. I think I got it free from a book club. I experimented with egg tempera about 20 years ago. I remember I liked how it looked but I think I let my egg mixture go bad and it turned me off of it, lol.

artbyakiko said...

Mona, thank you so much for your demo. It's very helpful. I feel like trying it. The problem for me might be getting fresh eggs. The eggs I buy usually expire in about two weeks. Now I realize that those eggs are not so fresh. :( Will look for fresher eggs. What would be the problem of using old eggs?

Mona said...

Thanks Kathleen, that's pretty cool to know that you had Vickrey's book.

Akiko, glad to know you want to try it, and please don't worry about the eggs. I'm lucky that the local food co-op gets eggs a bit fresher than usual, but anything with an expiration date of 2 wks. is also completely fine.

Freshness just makes it easier to avoid collapsing the egg yolk in preparing medium, and if eggs are nice and fresh the paint also has a more buttery or velvety texture.

Hugo Sleestak said...

Thanks for helping to make egg tempera a much less mysterious process for me. I watched this and thought, "Wow, that sounds pretty simple!" I also happened to pick up a copy of the book you were holding a few weeks ago too! Amazing coincidence! Thanks again. That was terrific.

DEB said...

Wow! That actually looks easy...I have the ingredients. I love your work, and your video has inspired me to try this!

Mona, after the egg tempura painting is dry, do you recommend sealing it with a fixative?

Mona said...

Hugo, thanks for your visit, and hope you enjoy that book. Vickrey has some great advice about creating textures with egg tempera.

Deb, good question. Egg tempera is dry to the touch almost immediately but chemically it takes up to a year or more to really 'dry'. I don't recommend spray fixative, no.

Egg tempera is actually much more durable and lasting than oil paint. When a painting is finished you can capitalize on it's natural "sheen" by buffing it's surface with a soft cloth once it is drier, but this must be done gently. An egg tempera painting is also susceptible to scratching, esp. for the first year or two after it has been painted. This is one reason I put some of my temperas under glass, but some painters like Vickrey, don't use glass.

Another alternative is to varnish an egg tempera with a light or blond shellac, but after it is sealed in this manner, further egg tempera is not possible, only oils on top of that.

L.Holm said...

Mona, this is an excellent demo! You're a wonderful instructor. How do you know how much dry pigment to egg medium to use? And how are they mixed? On a palette or in dishes?
Thanks so much for posting this.

L.Holm said...

I'm back - just zipped over to the Society's web site and see the pics of making a paste from the dry pigment and water, and then adding the egg medium. I guess it's trial and error knowing how much to mix per day per painting?!

Mona said...

Hi Liz, a thorough discussion on tempering paints is a whole other video itself, but I answered this question for Akiko in the comments column on my miniature painting blog, since I do it a little differently than is described on the egg tempera website:

(, June 19 post and comments)

There are also some additional tips in that post on egg tempera that I didn't manage to include on the portraits blog.

Helmut said...

Thank you for a wonderful demonstration.

My question is how long does ones painting need to dry for before it can be coated with a layer of Shellac?

I did a Mandylion icon on a wood covered bible and want to keep it protected.

Mona said...

Helmut, I'm on a two-wk. break, but I want to answer your question anyway. It takes egg tempera a year to chemically dry (and of course it continues to harden and bind further even after that), but it's also acceptable to shellac it sooner. Several months would be good, but it just depends on how much time you can afford to wait in practical terms. Give it as much time as you can allow.

It sounds like a wonderful piece you are working on. Is there a place online I can view your Mandylion icon, and if so, can you email the link to me at: