We just had our first freezing weather today, and therefore it is too cold to paint outside. I will write about it instead, and give the recipe first, before I wander off into the weeds of Nerdlandia.
1/2 Cup Boiled Linseed Oil (I wouldn’t use this for interior paint, but many people do)
1/3 Cup Water
2 Tablespoons Pigment
This should result in exactly one pint of paint, which means this can be used up before the paint begins to smell like oily rotten eggs. I had that happen once during hot weather this summer.
Begin by mixing the oil and egg together. This is a whole egg Tempera, though there are also recipes that use only the white, or more commonly, only the yolk. Add the water very gradually, stirring constantly. Dissolve the pigment of choice with a small amount of the mixture, stir briskly, and once dissolved, add to the paint. Pour the whole thing into a mason jar (if you can find one), slap on a lid, and use asap. Now for the trip to Nerdlandia–tickets, please.
Though tempera paints have been around for at least three millennia, it was classical Greece that popularized the wide use of egg tempera. My information comes from the excellent 1942 book Painting Materials, written by an art conservator and a chemist at Harvard, the capitol of Nerdlandia. This book convinced me that I needed to specify egg as the binder, as there are also glue tenperas and gum temperas.
They note that the first known mention of egg tempera came from the Roman writer Pliny, though they did not specify if it was the elder or the younger. He noted the wide use of this paint in classical Greece, as many of the famous Greek sculptures were originally painted with brilliant bright colors (they also wore real jewelry).
The two real heydays of Tempera painting were during the Italian Renaissance and in Twentieth century US paintings. Everyone knows the two greatest tempera paintings, Leonardo’s The Last Supper and Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. The best known of the US tempera revival artists would have to be Andrew Wyeth, of Chadds Ford, PA.
I, however, am painting a wall, which is actually the foundation of my brick oven. This has proven to be a vast improvement to the grey paint that was there before. One museum claims the egg tempera won’t crack or fade, the latter of which I know to be true, as I used iron oxide as my pigment. Now it just needs to warm up some.