“Egg tempera was widely used by medieval and Renaissance painters until it was superseded by oil paint. I have been using the medium for over twenty years and originally took my instructions from the Quattrocento manual written by Cennino Cennini.
I make my own gesso ground from rabbit skin glue and whiting according to a traditional recipe, painting several layers of the creamy paste onto a wood panel as the support for the painting. I mix my own paint from the raw ground pigments, egg yolk and water and adjust the watery paint over the course of the painting, moving from a ‘leaner’ mix with less yolk in the water in the early stages of the painting, to a ‘fatter’ mix with a little more yolk in the later stages. I use eggs from the hens I keep below my studio.
Egg tempera is applied in thin layers and each painting is the result of scores of glazes, building up the brilliant richness of colour slowly. The paint glazes are translucent and allow light to bounce back from the underlying white gesso ground, and egg tempera paintings have a unique glow. Egg tempera is very light-fast and does not darken and yellow over time as oil paintings do. Although egg tempera fell out of favour in the late Renaissance, it was rediscovered by later artists such as William Blake and the Pre-Raphaelites. It’s nice to know I am continuing an ancient painting tradition.”
Conservation of paintings: In some conditions egg tempera paintings can occasionally develop a slight “bloom”, creating a dusty film across the surface. This can have the effect of muting the colours. If this occurs the painting should be removed from the frame and the surface slightly wiped clean with a soft dry cloth or cotton wool.
Images below include close-ups of James’ paintings illustrated elsewhere on the website, showing the interesting surface quality, especially of those painted on gesso coated panels. Egg tempera paintings have a distinctive luminosity which can only be truly appreciated when seeing the original painting.