Polishing the Egg Tempera paintings and finishing the frames to perfection. Just a few weeks to go before all the paintings are transported up to London to Timothy Langston Fine Art.
The week long show at the Pimlico Road gallery will also feature a selling exhibition of the handmade mini-gardens. This has been a recent project, collaborating with Mirka Golden-Hann producing the stunning clay pots planted with unusual Succulents and Bromeliads.
The studio is within the North Wing of Trafalgar Park. A part of the house that has not been lived in since the 1940's. No electricity, painting only by day light. This sets a rymthm, getting up extremely early in the summer months. With no interventions or modern comforts this Georgian room floats in time.
River Avon, below the studio
Rising east of Devises, flowing through Salisbury before reaching the English Chanel through Christchurch Harbour in Dorset.
This part of the river is surrounded by protecting and often flooded water meadows that stretch all the way up to Salisbury Cathedral Close. Undisturbed from the times of Constable and Turner who know these water meadows and captured the immortal views of the Cathedral.
Mostly spring fed, the river remains a constant 10 degrees Celsius. This makes it chilly in summer and gently steaming during the winter months.
Charcoal of the River Avon.
When I lived in Switzerland I made a tremendous buy - a folding artists easel,which also incorporates a suitcase like tray. I keep this hidden in the local church, together with a stool. During the summer months I am often down sketching by the weir and on the bridge - where this view is taken from.
River Avon, daily walk
A rare glassy still day with the evening light behind the far bank.
Firstly drawing the scene over an over. Then painting, observing tradition with a foreground, middle ground and distance. However, I wanted to get closer to the more fantastical qualities - the reflections. Zooming in as though looking through a telescope at the far bank. This also distorts perspective - the far bank reflections are totally different from the large rippling reflections below my feet.
Why Egg Tempera
My first introduction to Egg Tempera was a student at ULC, University College London. On the side of my Architectural degree I studied Renaissance Art. Under the brilliantly instructive tuition of Libby Sheldon and Sally Woodcock, both painting conservators of note, I learnt about the 'Methods and Materials of Artists' throughout the ages. Egg Tempera carried the most stories and had the greatest fascination for me.
Discovering my own technique
Experimenting to find a way to escape the rather flat and chalky looking Renaissance paintings, built up with tiny brush strokes. To find my own response to this tricky medium that is impossible to rework, slow to prepare and fast to dry. How to end up with light filled images.
Rather than mixing colour on a palette as with Oil paints, it's about applying thin, transparent layers of egg tempera - each layer shines through the next. So blue laid over yellow turns a superb green on the panel. This importance of underlying pigments is exactly described in Cinnino Cennini's C15th artist manual. Perhaps I adapted rather than abandoned the Renaissance methods after all.
Applying and rubbing through - out of this process emerges the painting. I like to lose the brush strokes entirely, using found tools, a feather or a smooth piece of bone to work the colour. Depicting water with such an aquatic and slippery medium seem appropriate.
Preparation of Egg Tempera
I buy pigments in powder form from L. Cornelissen & Son by the British Museum. The pigments are usually ground earths, or derived from bone, such as 'Bone Black'. Cochineal beetle shells are ground to make crimson. Famously the semi precious stone lapis lazuli is powered for the pigment 'Ultra Matinee Blue'.
Back in the studio, using a glass muller I grind the power down further by slowly adding water. The pigment is then stored in a jar. Egg yolk is used as the 'binding medium' - the oldest painting medium known. I only mix a small amount at a time of the require pigment and paint quickly, applying a very thin, transparent layers. This is necessary as the egg yolk dries within minutes.
Preparation of Gesso Panels
Whiting and rabbit skin glue are warmed and mixed together to make gesso from a renaissance recipe described by Cinnino Cennini at the turn of the C15th. The wood panel is often covered in fine muslin. Many coats of gesso are applied and sanded so the finished surface is ultra smooth, but also porous. A new panel feels like porcelain to the touch.