Using a glass muller to make a paste of ultramarine blue and distilled water
Mixing several values of blue with the egg medium
This week I gave a demonstration of the traditional manufacture and use of egg tempera. I used what is perhaps the simplest formula– just pure yolk blended with distilled water for the medium, and various water-based pigment pastes. This results in a luminous and durable paint film best employed in quick washes or single strokes. Perhaps in the future I will experiment with egg-oil emulsions for more versatility in blending.
Now that the demos are over, I am working overtime to finish my current paintings for the upcoming show at Fontbonne University.
Adding powdered Indian Red pigment to the molten wax medium
Finished collection of colors, with raw wax medium at the bottom of the photo
In preparation for a demonstration this week I made a new set of encaustic paints. The formula is a simple one– just bring natural bee’s wax into solution with about ten percent damar resin for the raw medium, and then mix in the pigment of your choice at the desired concentration. A modern “laser” thermometer makes it easy to ensure that your heat source stays within a safe range, so once those powdered pigments are coated with wax the only thing that you will inhale is the fragrance of honey.
Most of my familiarity with the medium comes from my friend and former professor Pat Schuchard, who literally brings the wax through the frame and beyond in his innovative works of sculpture and painting. The surfaces are soaked, incised, and inlaid with a rich lacework of colors. When they receive their final polish, the images collect light and exude a depth unique to the medium. If you want to see for yourself, check out Pat’s paintings here.
It is pretty bad when an entire season passes between posts, but I am pleased to return with one of the most striking aspects of autumn in St. Louis– the unlikely blue of the cloudless sky. And if you stand a yellow ginkgo tree in front of that blue, you are fortunate to observe what might very well be the most distinctive color contrast available to human vision. We have a 1993 Ford Explorer. It is my “occasional use” vehicle, perfect for hauling materials. It suffers from one of the most dated paint jobs available, and the color never made any sense to me until I came outside the other morning and saw it covered in leaves from our maple tree. Now I think of it as the most suitable of colors for St. Louis. Those two moments would have been enough for me, but I was blessed with one more when I returned home later in the day. Someone from the utility company had come by to mark the water lines on our street, and in a classic “not my job” gesture they had applied their blue spray paint to the shifting leaves instead of the asphalt. Standing there under the strange blue sky, next to my strange blue truck, looking down at the strange blue leaves, the looking felt like a good day’s work.
Last week I repaired and repainted the walls in our first floor sitting room. The main wall is lit with a raking southern light and this caused the sandy, grooved texture to leap out insistently. I ended up building a scraping tool to knock off the peaks, then skim coated and sanded the walls towards a relative smoothness. We chose a color of green that had a bit of life to it. It quiets down in the natural light, but maintains some intensity in artificial or reflected light. The photos above show both scenarios.
I suspect that most people think of walls as surfaces, but I like to treat them as spaces. Walls, like paintings, are best understood by their edges. The center is a more mysterious space with a disorienting habit of falling away– especially when color gets involved. I love that center, where a wall can act like a window.