Bluebells (Work in Progress)
Bluebells , Egg Tempera on Paper; © Jennifer Pohl

Every now and then I put a piece back, and later pick it up again to find that it suddenly feels finished. This is one of them; I didn’t want to overwork this little painting, which is a study for a larger and more ambitious piece, as well as my first official work in egg tempera making its way to a real world gallery. (You can also see it in an earlier stage and read about how it began.)

Bailing, Oil on Canvas, J.Pohl, 1994
Bailing, Oil on Canvas; © Jennifer Pohl

A little dreamscape painted for my first solo show.

Egg Tempera painting by Koo Shandler
Portrait by Koo Shadler, Egg Tempera

egg tempera painting by gale bunting
Blood Root by Gale Bunting, Egg Tempera

If you’ve been following along you may have read that I’ve begun working in egg tempera, something I started thinking about before the birth of my son, Conor, a little over a year ago. My decisons to put my work in oil on hold and explore egg tempera were mainly for health reasons, but as I find my way, I’ve become smitten with the possibilites.

It is more archival than oil paint, and the colours will stay true and bright for centuries, but it can be a difficult, slow and frustrating medium. It didn’t take long to understand why it is generally not recommended for beginners, but when I see the quality of light in the work of artists like Koo Shadler and Gail Bunting I have all the inspiration I need to continue. Done badly, egg tempera paintings can be… uhm, boring, but when it is done well, there is a light and luminosity unlike any that can be found in other media. I have a huge learning curve ahead of me, but it’s one that excites and energizes me despite all sleep deprivation. A small book by Daniel V. Thompson, The Practice of Egg Tempera (1936) is proving invaluable. I would also love to add Cennini’s fifteenth century handbook Il Libro dell’ Arte to my reference library, but if –like me– you are saving up for art supplies and have a family to feed, there is also an online version.

Now if only I could transport myself to a museum and see a Botticelli in the flesh today, but that kind of inspiration will have to wait….

I started thinking about different things that “depth” (the word for last week’s Illustration Friday) could refer to. I thought of depth of water, of depth of mind, or the depth of feeling that grows in relationships over time. Last Friday was also our fifth wedding anniversary, but Doug and I started out as friends over ten years ago.

It was on our first anniversary, shortly after my grandmother passed away, that Doug wrote me this poem. I keep a copy of it in the back of my sketchbook.


after the sadness
   heart in hiding during the black hours
      sighing wet with williows, dipping and swaying
   and lying fallow, sheeted with moss and primrose
through dim and dusk

in the gloaming
   the tidewashed sky of tumbling candle flames
      an ash tree blooming moist the crimson of its young
   and, far off now, the jay winding through treetops home
with restless wing

on the veranda
   swept up in the descending blue
      your eyes shining, gleaming mirrors of the scene
   now hear it! the fading thundering drum
of a rainstorm distant

in a heartbeat
   the rhythm of the world awakens
      meadows and vales, swallows and crickets
   your soul surveying what tongues deny
of the divine

within the moment
   tender fingers reach through dewy twilight
      to find mine, we two spirits met in wonder
   and I am filled with the electricity
of a heartbeat

– D. Johnston, September 9th, 2002

This is an underpainting for a small piece in egg tempera, and I will post more images of it as it progress. It is based on one of the many studies I collected when we were living in Nova Scotia, and is of the very place Doug wrote about in this poem.