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; © Jennifer Pohl
A little dreamscape painted for my first solo show.
Portrait by Koo Shadler, 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.