Saturday, January 9, 2010

My Introduction to Egg Tempera

My painting career started late. In 2002 I was down at the Hudson River skipping rocks with my grandson Alex when I picked up a rock that reminded me of a bird's head. We started to look for some other stones that reminded us of particular things and brought them home to paint. Something about that activity was very relaxing, almost meditative, and I found myself coming back to it.

Initially my attempts were pretty primitive; I had no art background. Little by little I attempted more precise painting and gradually gravitated toward doing small saints - pieces that I called pocket icons. I gave many away and began to sell some of them.

Then a friend invited me to lead a workshop at church. During the morning an iconographer from out of town was coming to tell us about the use and process of painting icons. I was to follow in the afternoon with an experiential workshop where people could paint stones for themselves. One of the women in my session asked if I'd ever done iconography, and told me there was a local woman who taught classes. I was fascinated. And I was a little intimidated. I worried that using the word "icon" for my small stones might offend someone. And I felt that I didn't have enough skills to try to do something as complicated and beautiful as what we'd seen in the morning. I was told the instructor was away for the winter - so I didn't pursue it and gradually forgot about it.

Six months later I went to an opening at a local gallery and was struck by the most gorgeous paintings - not icons, but done in egg tempera and with themes and style that stirred up strong emotions. As I was reading the biographical information about the artist, I realized this was the iconographer I'd heard about. I went straight home and before I could talk myself out of it, I called and made an appointment to begin classes with her.

I thought I'd just go through the process of painting (writing) one icon. I'd learn the techniques so I would be more knowledgeable but suspected I would find it to be too difficult or disciplined to continue.

Here I am, four years later, totally captivated by iconography, icons, egg tempera. I still do a lot of my small work with acrylics. But I study with Olga weekly, and I've started using some of the techniques in my own way. My blogs will include more of the story and some tutorials. Hope you'll come back if this journey is of interest to you!

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