What Dry Pigments of Color to Use?
The paint used in egg tempera, is actually ‘million year old’ stone, finely ground into powder and suspended in an egg/water emulsion. Dry Pigments are sandy particles which settle on the flat surface of your board, finding their own rest and natural condition. We use ground stone from all around the world, minerals, metals and oxides, that each has their own integrity and behavior as they dry. As the Dry Pigments sets the water rises to the surface and ultimately dries, leaving a thin film of dry stone tempered with egg emulsion as the binder. (More Explanation in Book) Remember always in all egg tempera painting, mix your Dry Pigments often. They settle in the dish quick.
DRYPIGMENTS BECOME YOUR FRIENDS
You see here 20 pigments not including white and black. They are all organic and semi transparent to completely transparent. It has been said the old iconographers used a limited pallet and jumped for joy when a traveling merchant would stroll into town with a bag a new pigments from far way. In our world, we go to a store and purchase more than we need and colors we want to try. The discovery is endless. I suggest you begin with a few colors, perhaps 12 and build on them. Remember, this is egg tempera; the Renaissance Artists abandoned the technique for oils, something easier and quicker.
Every pigment has a different quality of absorption and behavior. Some are unstable when mixed together, some need a little alcohol as a solvent, and some are transparent, heavy, opaque, grainy or fine. As you practice using the same ones, they become like friends. With time you become fond of their characteristics and idiosyncrasies. Be careful with synthetic, toxic or bright opaque colors. You can seriously ruin your work with the Dry Pigments you do not know.
Analysis of Dry Pigments for Highlights and Veils
Highlights have three dimensions revealed in progression. First is a wide area, soft edges. Second is perhaps one soft edge and one hard edge.
Third is all hard edges called a facet. This guide is an orientation. The only rule I can offer it to follow the direction of the light. Take the time to analyze the Saint John Icon detail and many other icons. Gradually you will begin to understand the layering and the direction of the light.
Highlights are symbolic of our human creative effort. In the detail above, Saint John the Apostle, the highlight is bright because of the bright white added to the base pigment color. The highlight is painted with pigments and opaque white. You design your own recipe of color, respective of the tone and hue desired. (book recipe guide) Each highlight is separated by a float or veil of clear transparent pigment. The veil is symbolic of God’s presence which permeates all of creation. In this case the float expands into every corner of the shape being painted. Thin Red transparent over white with red, Thin blue transparent over white with blue, Thin green transparent over white with green.
The layer of dry pigments upon layer adds strength and depth to your icon. The layers are veils of egg/water with pigment. The egg is the temper, i.e. temper is the medium of emulsion, (egg/water) which holds the pigment grains. Without the temper, (the grease from the egg) the paint would dry like dust on the surface of the icon. So remember to use the emulsion as such, don’t be cheap.