Colin Fraser: A Leading Egg Tempera Painter

Colin Fraser was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1957 and received training to become a teacher at Brighton Polytechnic in England. Fraser taught courses in art for several years in the seaside town of
Worthing, England. He moved to Sweden in 1981 to fulfill a teaching position, but left this role in 1983 to pursue painting and to exhibit his work full time.

During his training at Brighton he mastered oils, acrylics, and watercolors, but he was in search of a more durable medium. Colin needed something that could travel better than common mediums so he began researching and teaching himself the egg tempera painting technique.

“Black Glass” 43 x 37, egg tempera on panel

I’m not going to do a deep dive into egg tempera today, but here’s a brief overview. Egg tempera was the primary painting technique during the Byzantine period and Italian Renaissance. Egg tempera paint is made by mixing powdered dry pigments with egg yolk as a binder, and typically with another ingredient like water, vinegar, or wine added to prevent cracking of the applied paint. It’s a permanent, quick drying mixture, and creates stunning effects within works of art.

If you’d like to learn more about egg tempera, click here to read our previous Technique Tuesday post discussing its role in art history.

“In Time” detail
“In Time ” detail

Egg tempera gives Fraser’s work a translucent, bright quality, which makes his compositions feel extremely open and freeing. The artist says; “It’s a medium fraught with technical difficulties, but therein lies its charm. Brushstrokes dry instantly and are never fully opaque, so just about every mark the painter makes shows.”

As you approach a Fraser you begin to pick up every brushstroke, tonal variation, and shadow then as you step away those details almost vanish and present a breathtaking scene. The colors in a Colin Fraser are so unique and exemplify the true potential of egg tempera.

“Sunside” 25 x 48, egg tempera on panel

About two weeks ago, we received the new works above and we can’t get enough of them! They are extremely bright, soothing, and magical.

“Sunside” detail
“Sunside” detail
“Sunside” detail
“Sunside” detail
“Sunside” detail

I posed a few questions to Colin about these three paintings, he gave us some insight on his inspirations and process behind them. Enjoy my mini interview with him!

Q. What was your inspiration for Black Glass? Did you approach this painting differently than your other works and is the piece a part of a black and white series?

A. This was the second of a series of 4 monochromatic or black and white temperas I have done recently. I have long been interested in the feeling of time that paintings document and capture in a way that photography never can. A photograph records a split second in time with the clock stopped and a millisecond captured in the image. It’s a one eyed view of reality, with an extreme one point central – perspective imagery. A painting, particularly a tempera which takes many days, weeks or months to complete documents a different time schedule within picture frame. The clock hasn’t stopped and time, although arrested has not stopped but is ongoing. Looking at a painting can be like entering a time capsule where all is about to change. The clock hasn’t stopped but ticks on, albeit at a different pace to reality. With this in mind I chose the black and white theme to work on to emphasize the time aspect of the work. Old movies from the 30 s and 40s and black and white photos; old family snaps or large modern day posters have pretty much a monopoly on the black and white image. What would a painting, a tempera look like in black and white and how would the luster and depth of an egg-tempera come over in monochrome? It was a fascinating process to work with.

Q. In Time is such a phenomenal painting and it gets an incredible reaction here in the gallery. The number one question we get is the location; is the scene from a memory, your home, or a home you’ve visited? It’s such an inviting and enchanting scene, a place everyone wants to visit.

A. In 2016 I rented a house on the south -west coast of England in Polzeath on the north cornish coast. It was march, almost still winter and I was alone and spent the entire week working in this house situated right on the side of the beach. It’s never enough for me to paint scenes or places of beauty. That doesn’t really interest me. It has to be somewhere that means something to me where I have an emotional connection. It had long been in my mind to return to Polzeath, a place I spent many holidays in my teenage years. The constant changing of the tidal sea waters had had left a deep impression on me and to return there to work after forty years absence was very special. In time is a reference to the ever -changing tide as well as my own journey through the decades which somehow came to life during that for me, remarkable week.

Q. Can you share any insight on your inspiration for Sunside? It is a masterful composition, the streams of light in this painting feel so real and just looking at the sunlight I feel the warmth!

A. Sunside is one of series of nudes l painted in my studio, here in Sweden. It’s the side of the studio, the south, where the sun streams in through the large windows at this time of year, all day. My wife, Eva, has posed for many temperas through the years and this is one of the last in a long series which started in the early nineties. Working in series means that the pictures have their roots in previous pictures. Working on a particular subject somehow elevates its meaning to you, the painter. It has to mean something significant to you. If your going to commit weeks or months to a work the subject matter has to stir an excitement within that is lasting and significant about who you are and what makes you tick.

Click here to be directed to Colin Fraser’s artist page on our website!