View Full Version : Egg tempera, etc?

03-08-2019, 01:22 PM
I see reference to some artists using other paints like egg tempera "over" oil paints. I'm wondering how this works, first of all, and chemically -- will it adhere. I would think that this would need to be on the top-most layer only and that any application of oil over it might ruin it. What other paints are people using over oil paint?


03-08-2019, 01:45 PM
They used intermediate adhesive layer between 0il paint and tempera paint layers. A garlic juice or onion juice. Rub garlic juice to the oil paint surface, let it dry and then apply egg tempera or other tempera (acrylic) on top. Garlic makes oil highly adhesive for waterborne materials.

03-08-2019, 01:54 PM
It won't adhere well. Egg tempera is a good medium and you can use it under layers of oil paints with great success, but not above oil paint layers.

In the old days, animal glue was used for some glazes above oil paints, in cases when pigments react badly with oil binders, such as Ultramarine. Egg-based binders were used sometimes for glazes and as temporary varnish, but such practice is very problematic.

03-08-2019, 08:11 PM
This is really interesting to learn about.

For example, using acrylic paint. That can be done under oils, but not on top -- though I've heard some people doing this with a certain chemical/application.

Once the egg tempera dries underneath, it's not disturbed by the oil paint?

Harold Roth
03-08-2019, 08:19 PM
It's not. Koo Schadler paints with egg tempera followed by oils. She's pretty incredible. She has a pdf on her site describing her technique and also has a book. She has also posted quite a bit about it online.

03-08-2019, 08:42 PM
Hi Forrie –
Are you asking about mixed media processes because you are interested in doing this yourself, or is it more an intellectual pursuit?

I think almost anything – including a kitchen sink (American joke) can be applied or joined to an oil painting. Any type of paint can be applied to an oil painting. Whether it will adhere 24 seconds or 24 hours or 24 centuries is unknown in many cases. Thin layers of only oil paint work quite well, and have survived for many years. This means nothing but oil paint; add no tempera, no watercolor, no enamel, no house paint, no unlabeled stuff from garage sales, etc.

Egg tempera, alkyd, and other types of paint can be applied before the oil layers, and work successfully. My sources of information for this are old art history classes, painting classes, and reading people’s experiences here on the technical forum.

Anytime you add complexity to the physical or chemical structure of the painting, you are likely adding a future weakness. This weakness will only be apparent in the future when specific circumstances occur: temperature change, humidity change, someone else applying a varnish, jarring or dropping the painting, a bad framing job, and so on. You very likely will not be in a position to prevent these occurrences.

For over 50 years, I have applied nothing over my oil paintings except more layers of oil paint, not even any kind of varnish or natural resin, and all of them are in great shape, except for a few disasters in the 1980s when I was told to put calcium-based gesso on canvas. Oh, and since 1988 or so, I use a very small amount of alkyd in the oil paint. So far, so good.

I do applaud the spirit of experimentation, but I am at a point in my life that the only experimentation I want to do is in the composition :) John Singer Sargent watch out!

Could you please share with us the source of your reading about tempera applied over oil paint? Also, please share the results of your experiments.
Thank you. Deb

03-10-2019, 02:38 PM
I'm interested in pursuing different techniques if they are suitable for what I'm doing. I'm finding that one can never learn too much in this field.

One of the artists I recall uses egg tempera in some of his works is http://www.helmut-ditsch.com/ As for the article I read recently, I didn't mark that page (sorry). I can't recall if his was on top or below the oil layer.

There are times where I like to make color glazes or transitions -- when I'm using acrylic (as an example) I've "colorized" some places using a simple aniline marker; followed by a light fixative spray. Time saver!

I do tend to paint in thin layers.

John Singer Sargent (with whom I share the same birthday, Jan 12) is one of my favorites. There is a gallery near me in Manchester, NH, called The Currier Gallery of Art that has one of his pieces. I can get right up close! I could spend all day there.

Deb, if I find that link (and I will look!) about using egg tempera on top of oil, I will post it. I browse so much who knows where that page is now :)

Thank you!

03-11-2019, 10:44 AM
Hi Forrie – John Singer Sargent was an amazing painter. I have spent many hours just looking at his paintings at the WDC National Gallery, the Phillips, and the Corcoran. His Simplon Pass actually brought me to a dead stop. It seems so effortless, with every brush stroke (color, value, saturation) just perfect as if the painting was done in one single session. I later found out that he spent 3 days on it, scraping away everything that did not work and starting again. So, there is hope for us all.

Ps – I suspect JSS actually learned some stuff from Sorolla, when they painted together, but that is a surmise for art historians.