June 8, 2008

Dirt City

What a fun medium!  Seldom used because you have to make your own gesso from scratch, egg tempera is itself extremely easy to make.  It is, essentially, egg yolk and dry pigment.  That's it.  Okay, so there are a few tricks.  

Egg tempera allows for a lot of detail, and is appealing because it is extremely durable and long-lasting.  One of my favourite pieces in the Musée des Beaux Arts here in Montreal is an egg tempera painting from 1410.  It's a religious scene, but the red pigments in the skin have all faded, leaving only the greenish-grey underpainting.  Everyone in the painting looks like a creepy space alien.  The "space-alien effect" can be avoided in your own pieces by using stable pigments that won't fade over time.

"Dirt City" (above) is a personal coat of arms, a call-out to my home province with an oil-gushing sick heart over a yellow prairie, gorgeous sun and huge sky, and the Edmonton skyline in the distance.  Realistically, you can't get a view like that of the city; from that distance, you would likely be standing in a suburban cul-de-sac (Edmonton has one of the lowest population densities of any city in the world, and in size is larger than Toronto).

"Noxema Girls Get Noticed" started out as a tribute to Yayoi Kusama, and ended...well, it's not quite done yet.  I got off track and started thinking about the gender relations in the oil boom towns, and the syphilis outbreak in Fort McMurray and Northern Alberta.  I'll re-post this when it's finished.

I'm planning on doing more with this medium because it's so wonderfully portable and easy to use.  Eggs + pigment, and water to clean everything up.  Easy.  The fact that it dries almost instantly also makes it a nice change from those pesky oils.  Though egg tempera (along with watercolour) has a bad rap because of it's association with cheesy subject matter, I think it has a lot of potential to liven up contemporary subject matter.  At any rate, definitely worth continuing on with.

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