"Tempest in a Teacup: the China Affair

January 2017: The Gabriola Arts Council is holding a fund raiser auction tomorrow evening at the Community Hall on Gabriola. Each year visual artists are invited to create a piece based on a theme -and an object chosen by the council. This year's theme is china. I chose a teacup. This is the 3rd year for this event. We have imagined with chairs and maps on previous occasions. It is always fun and a chance to support the local arts scene. 


This year I decided to make something traditional and to challenge myself with an egg tempera painting on wood panel. I had not used this method for a few years except on paper, so I had to consult my old notes and do some further research. It is a demanding painting method which is very satisfying to do and the result can be lovely if done right. 

Egg tempera painting was practiced originally across Medieval Europe and early Renaissance Italy. Gradual change to oil painting involved thin layers of oil glazes over the egg tempera base. and finally oil was used alone. It isn't practised widely, but there are wonderful examples of modern works using egg tempera. The style does not have to look like a medieval icon! Andrew Wyeth in the mid 20th century created masterpieces with this method. 

 Egg tempera by itself is created with layers of alternating opaque, transparent and semi opaque colour built up until the surface is smooth. The finished effect has a soft finish unlike other methods of painting. Because the layers are not solid, the colours shimmer up to the surface. I also used some oil glazes to enhance that effect.

It is tricky to prepare the paint, starting with raw pigments, mixed to a paste with water and then "tempering " with the right amount of egg yolk and water. But I had forgotten that I enjoyed painting this way for a change, so unlike my usual way of painting. Sometimes, trying something different can lead to interesting discoveries and explorations. I think I like it because it is a little bit like cooking and getting a complex recipe just right! Luckily I still had a few of the lovely prepared  wood panels from Italy, so I was spared the lengthy process of having to make gesso and apply/sand multiple times.  

THE THEME   I created a paper "scene" as a storm, with the paper "ocean" spilling out of a teacup and then painted it as a still life. "The Tempest" is my favourite Shakespeare play so I added a quote of Prospero's. I wasn't satisfied with my efforts to paint the text so I used graphite, a compatible medium, before adding the oil glaze.

I mounted the panel on a painted MDF  board in a deep teal which brought out the greens, greys and blues in the painting. My framer added a soft metallic frame to complete a truly professional look which is not shown in the image.

The Tempest as a play, deals with illusions, which is what we also do as artists.  





Antoinette HerivelComment