Experiments in Iconography Part III: Egg Tempera

Here’s some action shots of my last 2 days of work. I have to let it cure overnight, so I can’t put more than a few hours of work in at a time. That and my eyes start going “NO.” And I get impatient.

Egg Tempera is a solution of egg yolk and white wine. I had a heck of a time separating the egg, then puncturing the yolk, but I was able to make the solution with some pinot grigio.

egg
Yum.

You add this to natural, dry pigments.

pigment
No lead. Promise.

Then you start laying down the sankir, or skintone layer, and eventually all of the dark under layers. This is called the roskrish. This is what I got done last night.

roskrish1roskrish2roskrish

Today I started the highlighting process, and it was uh…interesting at first. It’s a system of layers and building, so I had to step back, think, blend, curse, re-blend, paint, curse, try again, etc. Either way, Michael is starting to get that “illuminated” look that is typical of most icons. I feel I should be finished in the next couple of days. I don’t think I will have time tomorrow as my last class gets out rather late, but Wednesday afternoon I should be able to put a good dent into it.

highlights1 highlights2 highlights3

I’m fairly pleased with how it’s coming out so far, and can’t wait to see the finished product now.

Experiments in Iconography part II

I DOOD IT.

Well, so far. I got the gilding down tonight. This makes me insanely happy, since it was probably the part I was most worried about.

michael1
St. Michael the Archangel, patron of Constantinople. Naturally.
michael2
The red stuff is called bole. It’s a mixture of red clay and animal skin glue. This is the adhesive for the gold leaf.
gold
GOLD LEAFS. Okay, it’s composite gold. I was too afraid to invest in the real stuff just yet. I figure after some more practice if it looks like I can get this technique down, I will take the leap of faith to the 23kt sheets.

michael_shiny
HOLY SHINY. LITERALLY.

michael3
I did it! I applied gold leaf for the first time ever!

michael4
There are a little gaps, but it’s all fixable using shell gold, which is using the leftover leaf and mixing it with gum arabic to make a paint.

After the pictures were taken, I burnished the leaf, and used a modern sealant that came with the leaf because, well, I’m a rookie, and I’d rather be careful while I learn. So tomorrow I will try mixing the natural pigments into egg tempera, which is going to be the next hurdle.

Experiments in Iconography, Part I

When many people think of the Byzantine Empire, they probably think of one of these shiny things:

I am not a religious person mundanely, but I’ve always found the artistry of Orthodox iconography to be hauntingly beautiful. Icons have been a part of the religious tradition of Greece and Russia since the Byzantine Empire, and come to find out, the techniques used to create them are pretty much spot on to what have been done in period as is used today.

So today, I spent quite a bit of money on supplies to get started on attempting to paint my first icon, using period mineral pigments and composite gold leaf (No way I can afford the real stuff right now.) I did cheat a bit with getting gesso boards instead of preparing my own with poplar wood, rabbit skin glue, and natural gesso, but I only have so much money for this, and I’d rather not spend hundreds on creating something that I may completely screw up. Even the pigments I got, although natural, are not top of the line. I will be mixing them into egg tempera, the period method of using egg yolk and white wine to create a paint medium.
I’m pretty excited about starting this project. I’m also scared to death. So this will be the next multi-post series here on ye olde Anachronistic and Impulsive.