Maaria Treima tempera art

Tempera painting was the primary panel painting medium for nearly every painter in the European Medieval and Early renaissance period up to 1500. It has been continually used in religious icon painting since christianity flourished in the 4th century Constantinople to this day.

Painting in egg-tempera is a beautifully thorough and meticulous process, where the artist prepares their own pigments and even the boards to paint on if need be. The binder that holds the pigment together is egg yolk and since this cannot be stored for long periods or sold in shops, the artist must grind and mix the paints together during the painting process. A good knowledge of the properties of pigments like lightfastness, opaqueness, toxicity and others will come of very much use through the trials and errors of mixing ones own paint.

And because of the sensitive properties of the dried egg-tempera, the paint should be applied on a stable surface, traditionally a wooden board covered in layers of gesso, sanded down to get a smooth paper like surface. A more flexible ground such as the canvas, could lead to the surface cracking. Unlike oil binders, egg yolk doesn’t yellow and the beautiful colours have the potential, in right conditions, to keep their original features for hundreds of years.

My own contact with egg-tempera painting has been through the Orthodox Church and icon painting. In 2007 I spent 2 months in a monastery in the South of France. During my time there I visited an island, where a hermit monk was having his chapel painted with frescos. The artist handed me some supplies and thats how I painted my first John the Baptist icon. During my years as an art student the opportunities to learn about icons became more frequent and after my graduation I chose to commit more thoroughly to it. Among the many places I had the honour of learning about iconography, like the Greek monastery in Lavrion, the fresco painting studio in Athens, and many various courses are also to the highly regarded iconpainting teachers Nikita Andrejev from the Prosopon School of Iconography and father Anthony Gunin from USA. 

Something that started with curiosity has developed into a deep respect for a tehnique that for me unites patience, dedication, beauty and meaning.