Sue Ellen Rael

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Egg Tempera & Gold Leaf
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I took my first icon writing class in 2004-2005. It was an opportunity to
explore my spirituality in a manner different from writing in a journal, which
had not been successful for me. The summer of 2005 I took my first week-
long workshop from the Prosopon School of Iconology held in Santa Fe.
The Prosopon School has guided my development as an iconographer
ever since. The school was established by Vladislav Andrejev, a Russian
who immigrated to the United States in 1980. The school now has
instructors who travel throughout the world to provide instruction to a wide
range of students. Little did I know that the experiences I began that
summer of 2004 would take hold of me and become a major part of my life.

I work in egg tempera on a variety of wood panels in a Russian orthodox
tradition. I focused first on orthodox images and then added western
religious images. About ten years ago I began to expand this technique to
secular subjects. Whatever the subject, I spend time researching the image
or subject, developing the cartoon/sketch, and formulating the sequences
of pigments/paints before I begin painting. I prepare an egg emulsion (egg
yolk and dry white wine) to which I add dry pigments, mixing each layer of
paint for each area as I work on the image. Egg tempera dries quickly so I
can’t prepare the paints I use in advance.

The past 5 years or so, I have been exploring calligraphy (especially the
older, broad point hands like gothic and uncial) and watercolor. Calligraphy
is a nice complement to writing icons. Watercolor with its fluidity resulting in
a somewhat lack of control is a contrast to the preciseness of painting in
egg tempera.