Paint Me Like One of Your Italian Masters

Got Eggs? Will Paint

Ciao Artigiani, 

Before I started all this quarantine crafting, the only really arts or crafts project I did with any regularity was watercolor painting. Calling watercolor a craft feels like pushing the limit of what a craft is, but painting is a great activity especially after 2 months of quarantine. 

I have been painting on and off for years so my house is truly filled with paints. Not only watercolor but gouache, acrylics, tempera, so many, but I understand that I am not the norm and aspiring art makers might not be able to access paints right now. But don’t distress! If you want to paint but can’t go to Michael’s or live in a makeshift art studio as I do, you can easily make paint at home with just 2 ingredients. 

The paint we are making today is called Egg Tempera and while it was really popular with early Renaissance painters like Sandro Botticelli or Duccio di Buoninsegna, by the time Da Vinci came around, the egg-based paint had fallen out of favor. Classic paintings like the Birth of Venus and Madonna and Child were painted with mostly eggs. The paint dries with a jewel-like surface and can last truly lifetimes. 

You can actually still buy egg tempera from art stores but it will run you about $50, also in researching how to make it, this message came up, so I assume a lot of hobbyists are buying up painting supplies (which is crazy, because making egg tempera is cheap and easy to do at home.)  

All you need to make this paint is two ingredients: an egg and something to use for pigment. We always have eggs in the house because my boyfriend eats two for breakfast every single day like a cartoon character (I famously do not like eggs much like my lord and savior Guy Fieri.) Now many online sources will say use watercolors for the pigment, but if you already have watercolors, why do you need to make paint? You can also use pure pigments, but unless you do a lot of art, you probably don’t have those lying around. For this craft, I am going to use two different pigment types that hopefully you already have. The first is food coloring and the second is spices (Paprika and our old friend Tumeric to be exact.) The old masters would have used juice from fruits, spices, plants, and other natural pigments, so using spices turns this DIY into a bit of a history lesson as well. 

Both recipes start the same, get some eggs, and separate the yolks from the whites. You won’t need the whites, throw them out, use them for macarons later, make a traditional whiskey sour, the skies the limit. Put the yokes in separate small bowls. If you don’t want to make a ton of paint, you can use a single yoke and section it out into separate very small containers.

Then add your pigments. With adding pigments, I always start slow. Especially if you aren’t using a ton of egg yolks, a little pigment should do it. If you are using food coloring, start with a drop or two and then stir it in, if you don’t like the color, add more. For the turmeric and paprika, sprinkle into the egg and then mix vigorously. In both cases, make sure to fully stir the pigment into the yolk. It should be completely integrated. I found with the natural dyes, you have to stir a bit longer because the spices tend to clump up. Make sure your pigment is completely dissolved and integrated. Now, you are ready to paint. 

This is a great craft to do with children, but make sure they don’t eat the egg (unlike cookie dough however these raw eggs taste bad, so they won’t be as tempted.)

Ok, so this was a short one. So, I thought I would end with some easy ideas that you can paint and work great for cards or wall art with your paints. 

For the first one, get your paints and a large piece of thick paper. In general, when you use egg tempera, thick paper works best. I am using watercolor paper here, but card stock or even just heavy paper will work. I made these three colors with food coloring. (One is green, one is blue and one is purple which was just 3 parts blue to 2 parts red.) Paint a shape (it can be any shape). I did a sort of bean-like shape in the green paint first. You might have to take your brush around it a couple of times to make it thick and saturated with color. Then paint a similar shape slightly below the first in another color (mine was blue). Have the two shapes intersect in some way. Add another similar shape in your third color but have this one be higher than the first shape.

You’ll end up with an easy abstract piece. For my second idea, I took my two natural paints; an orange from the turmeric and a red from the paprika. I then drew some doodles on a page with a sharpie. 

When I was happy with my doodles, I painted stripes of each color on top of them. The paint dries slightly transparent, so anything you have under the paint with a dark enough line will come through the paint.

These are just two 5-10 minute ideas, that are really simple, but these paints can really be used for anything. You can layer them or blend them as long as they stay wet. Get creative and as always I would love to see what you create. 

Also, I know I said, I was going to be posting these on TikTok, but I am banned for a week for uploading a video with a photo of Truth Coming Out of Her Well in it (they do not like the female body over there) so there is no link for this one, which is probably fine, cause this is a really simple one. 

Honestly, quarantine has been getting to me so at least for this week I am taking a break from plugs and am going to focus on a couple of things that have been brightening my week. We haven’t been watching a lot of TV, surprisingly, but recently my boyfriend and I straight up binged Never Have I Ever on Netflix and I loved it, especially if you need a good cry. This week we also deep cleaned the whole apartment. The whole shebang, under furniture, corners, places we usually skip over, and I forgot how magical a truly spotless house it. This weekend was supposed to be my college 5-year reunion and while I can’t be in Philly, I will be making a highball to celebrate. 

It’s been a while since I have bugged you with this, I’m committed to keeping these 100% free (I don’t think anyone has extra money right now), but if you wanted to support me in a non-financial way, you could rate my podcast or give it a download. You could subscribe to Infinite Sketch’s YouTube channel or watch our videos. Or you could share this newsletter with your friends!

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