Egg Tempera: A Medium Well-Done
by Jeff Gola, Competition Spotlight artist in the October 2011 issue of The Artist’s Magazine
I’m primarily an egg tempera painter, which I first tried about 10 years ago and found that it suited my style. It’s a medium that predates oil painting and uses a raw egg yolk as a binder, mixed with water and the same pigments found in other paints. Andrew Wyeth, George Tooker, and Robert Vickrey are the most famous 20th century artists who used it. Working in egg tempera requires two things: 1) a rigid substrate because the paint is fairly inflexible and 2) paint that is made freshly before each working session, because it dries so fast. It also requires some patience, because the best way to use it is to apply it in many thin layers, gradually building up the image over time. I use a combination of washes and a dry brush technique as I go, alternating the colors one layer at a time and using both tightly controlled effects and loose, random textures along with smudging and scraping.
It wasn’t until I was almost 40 that I decided to give egg tempera a try. I had always greatly admired Wyeth’s work, and since at the time I knew of no classes for beginning egg tempera, I picked it up from reading books and searching the Internet for information and contacts.
Jeff Gola was raised on a family farm in Chesterfield, NJ. He attended Allegheny College and focused on medical illustration. After graduation, he worked in print design and computer graphics, and ended up doing less illustration and more writing and content development for pharmaceutical training as a career. However, since 2005, he’s been a full time painter and gained success selling his work in regional galleries, entering and winning awards in national competitions and garnering some positive press.
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