I have been taking a class in glass painting from Cristina Simona Marian Albin. Cristina moved to the U.S. from Romania two years ago and ended up in Montana, where she’s in the process of reestablishing herself as an artist and art educator.

I’d always been curious about the mysteries of egg tempera, and Cristina knows all about it. She learned the art at a monastery in her home country years ago, and has since used the technique to make her own series of icons.

Birth of Jesus - egg tempera on glass by Cristina Simona Marian Albin

Birth of Jesus – egg tempera on glass by Cristina Simona Marian Albin

The way Cristina learned to do it, there are strict rules for making sure that you tell the visual story in the proper, traditional way. For instance, you must trace the image first, then flip the tracing paper before transferring it to your glass, so when the picture is seen from the viewing side of the glass, everything will be oriented in the exact way it has traditionally been shown: None of the saints will be using the wrong hand to make a their signature gesture, etc. (Of course, you can do that with a computer, but we used the old method just to learn the process.)

Here’s another one of Cristina’s icons that I love. They’re all great. Since there isn’t a lot of creative license in icon painting tradition, even down to the colors you use, Cristina channeled her creativity into making unique frames.

Judgment - egg tempera on glass by Cristina Marian Albin

Judgement – egg tempera on glass by Cristina Marian Albin

The painting technique that Cristina teaches involves lots of translucent layers. This allows the tempera to dry well and prevents cracking, among other problems. First, you ink black details and add a layer of varnish. Then, you add highlights, continuing in a reverse process from the foreground to the background, since your image will be seen from the opposite side.

It’s not the sort of thing you can whip out in an afternoon. You have to be careful in applying each layer, not to disturb the previous layer. Letting the layers dry well helps, but it is a ticklish process.

As I attacked my first little project, I found that the need for patience went against my innate desire for instant gratification, but I was delighted to discover that overall, egg tempera is a pretty low-tech process that anybody with an egg can do.

You can use liquid tempera, powdered pigment, watercolor or gouache as pigment to mix with egg yolk, which you’ve carefully separated from its white, rolled on a paper towel to dry, and removed from its sac. You mix the egg yolk with water at about a 1:1 ratio.

Here are my first efforts, looking a bit clumsy next to Cristina’s. I’m finding that I like the back side of the painting better than the front. I’m not sure if I will become a glass painting dynamo, but any time I touch art supplies, I feel like I’ve made a small victory.

dollbot-on-glass

Dollbot Bedroom – egg tempera on glass shown from back. Marla Goodman

dollbot-glass

Dollbot Bedroom – egg tempera on glass (front). Marla Goodman

egg tempera on glass - fronts and backs. Marla Goodman

egg tempera on glass – fronts and backs. Marla Goodman

St. Spock - egg tempera on glass - detail from back. Marla Goodman

St. Spock – egg tempera on glass – detail from back. Marla Goodman

St. Abe - egg tempera on glass - detail from back. Marla Goodman

St. Abe – egg tempera on glass – detail from back. Marla Goodman

St. Frida - egg tempera on glass - detail from back. Marla Goodman

St. Frida – egg tempera on glass – detail from back. Marla Goodman

Materials

Tempera painting materials: clear gloss acrylic coating, india ink, tempera paint, tracing paper, egg emulsion (1:1 egg yolk and water with a couple drops of vinegar. (Keeps sealed and refrigerated for a month or so.)

Tempera painting materials: Glass, India ink, clear gloss acrylic coating, tempera pigment (liquid or powder form), tracing paper, egg emulsion (1:1 egg yolk and water with a couple drops of vinegar, well shaken. Keep sealed, refrigerated for up to a month). Not shown: alcohol for cleaning glass before you begin. (Ink and paint won’t stick if glass is oily from your hands. Also, put a paper towel between your hand and work surface and work from top to bottom when possible). Before beginning, tape the edges of the glass carefully, leaving a clean 1/8″ line of tape on your working side, to make it safe for handling. 1. Clean work surface of glass well with alcohol. 2. With your tracing or reversed image visible under the glass, transfer black details to glass in ink. 3. Spray with acrylic and allow to dry. 4. Add first layer of highlights, adding desired amount of emulsion to palette colors with a brush give pigment desired translucence and and adherence. Apply paint thinly to avoid cracks. 5. Allow first layer to dry and continue to add layers, always looking at the front of the glass to see how they look from the viewing side. Use as many layers as needed. 6. Add a final opaque layer of paint in a desired color (light or dark) to complete the opacity of the layers. 7. After letting the entire painting dry for at least a week, spray another layer of acrylic to protect from scratches. 8. Carefully remove tape and tape a thin layer of non-abrasive paper to the back of the painting to prevent the paint surface from rubbing on the frame backing.

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