Select Page

[nggallery id=5 template=captions]


The traditional medium for iconography is egg tempera. You mix dry pigment with some egg yolk and paint. After about a year all the layers of the paint molecules crosslink and you have a very durable surface. It is a pleasant experience.

Although an iconographer does not really need very many different colors to create a handsome icon, collecting lovely dry pigments can be addictive. Some of the best pigments are ground from semi-precious minerals, and are rather pricey.

So, I decided to jump into the craft of grinding my own pigments. I invested in a mortar and pestle, glass sheet and muller. I already had a hammer and drying plate.

I scoured the Internet and found some azurite and cinnabar. And on a nice day, I stepped out onto the deck and began to hammer away.

Then I went after the small pieces with the mortar and pestle, seeing just how fine I could make the powder.

Finally, I poured some of the powder and some water onto the piece of frosted glass and began grinding in a circular motion and shoving the mixture back into the middle. This went on for a long while. The worse part of the process is the sound of grinding of rocks between the two glass surfaces. I cringe just thinking about it.

You can tell when the particles are fine enough by the sound and feel. The muller fairly floats on the surface.

Finally, I rinsed the slurry into a flat plate and let it dry. Voila, dry pigment ready for the egg and brush.

Bottom line–I turned a $25 dollar piece of azurite into $250 worth of pigment, more than covering the initial investment for the supplies to do so.

Next week, I will show you how the icon where I used this pigment turned out.