Friday, 2 December 2011

DIY egg tempera

In an attempt to understand more about art in the Middle Ages, we looked at Giotto, who is now known as "The Father of Western Art".   We did not find much information about him apart from the short paragraph in Discovering Great Artists, as well as from the following book:

It was not until we had watched the following documentary about Giotto that we had a better idea of his life, his work, and the period during which he worked:

The project Tiger did this time was painting, but the interesting part was making his own egg tempera.   We found a box of old chalk to work with.  Tiger selected the colours he wanted to use, then ground them into powder.

Next came the egg separating process -- only egg yolk was used to mix in with the powder.

Since the main goal of this project was to have a taste at making our own egg tempera paint, the subject matter of the art work was secondary.  Tiger chose to paint a portrait.

He started with an inital pencil sketch, but soon became a little frustrated at not placing the eyes on the face in the right place, so I quickly showed him the standard proportions of a face used by artists.  He adjusted his sketch based on those proportions, then proceeded with applying his homemade paint.

The egg tempera was noticeably less drippy than other paints that Tiger has used before.  As some chalk pieces were not grounded as finely as the rest, they added an interesting texture to Tiger's painting.

He was very satisfied with his painting but he decided, upon completion, that he could see a dragon emerging from his painting.  I liked his choice of colours.


This post is linked up to several blog hops and to the Relevant Edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling, where you can visit to see what other homeschoolers have been busy with.


  1. We have done this. It is quite fun. I love his picture!!

  2. Another great learning project! Thanks for sharing with Favorite Resources.

  3. What fun! His painting looks wonderful! I love the color choices and the homemade paint! Thanks for sharing on NOBH! :)

  4. Really neat! You can do the same kind of thing using packets of unsweetened Kool-Aid for pigment. Also, instead of egg yolk, you can use the white to make glair, which is a technique often used in medieval manuscript painting. It's more like a watercolor paint. Separate the white from the yolk (not a speck of yolk should be in the white), whip the white until it is stiff, let it sit overnight. Take off the crusty, dried white part, and the clear liquid left in the bowl is glair. Keep it refrigerated if you want to store it for later, or mix it with the pigment, adding water as needed. The nice thing about glair is that it won't alter the colors like the yolk can.

  5. Dragonfly - many thanks for your suggestion for making glair. It's very useful information since I've been wondering what exactly is 'glair' when I read it in some books about medieval art. We'll be working on medieval manuscript illumination soon so your detailed instructions are very timely!

  6. You're welcome! I've studied manuscript illumination techniques for many years. There are a lot of good books on the subject, but here is one of my favorites: The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting by Daniel V. Thompson.

    It's not really written for kids, but it's still a fairly easy read, and I'm sure you could find some great info in there, especially if you are interested in the specific pigments and how they are made and used.

  7. I had NO CLUE you could make your own paint from chalk and egg whites! Thanks so much for linking up to Fun Stuff Fridays on Toys In The Dryer!

  8. This is soooo cool!! You always amaze me! I had no idea you could do that! Thanks for linking up to TGIF! Can't wait to see what you do this week,
    Beth =-)

  9. very cool! we will have to try this!!
    visiting from HHH

  10. wow. fun project! :)
    thanks for the like to giotto info!

    PS. never worry about posting to the CM carnival. you can post any CM related post at any time, there are themes (even w/ optional reading suggestions) available for those who want to read further on any given topic, or are in need of inspiration ;)

    amy in peru

  11. I am learning so much from you. Thanks for linking again. These colors turned out so vivid mixed with the egg. Another cool thing to add to our list...

  12. Great project with great results...loved seeing your steps. One of my favorite periods of art to study because it is so interesting.


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