After a visit to Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood, I decided to create a painting based on my sketches. The Mische technique sounded like such a bizarre thing to do that I had to try it. The name “Mische” means mixed in German and refers to using two different types of media; egg tempera on top of oil paints. The idea of the Mische Technique is that you paint the highlights and detail with egg tempera and use oil paint in a series of glazes (red, yellow and blue), before adding local colour on top to finish. Having overcome my initial scepticism, I’ve actually grown to love the Mische Technique, as it suits my desire to paint in detail. Follow my step-by-step guide to the Mische Technique below:
For this project you will need:
- mdf board primed with gesso
- black Indian ink
- oil paints
- damar varnish
- linseed oil
- white pigment
- frosted plate and muller (or improvise with a palette knife on a sheet of glass)
- turpentine (for cleaning brushes)
Step Four: make the egg tempera medium
Crack a fresh egg into a jar and add an equal amount of medium (half damar varnish and half linseed oil) and an equal amount of water. Place a heaped spoon of white pigment onto a frosted glass plate and add the medium until it has the consistency of yogurt. Use a muller to grind it to a smooth paste or use a palette knife. Place in a small jar with a damp sponge to keep it moist.
Step Six: add yellow glaze
Next you add a glaze of yellow oil paint using the palm of your hand to spread the paint evenly. I used Cadmium Yellow and made it in the same way as the red oil paint glaze in step two above and added a small amount of white paint. The white egg tempera paint is then used again to paint in the highlights.
Step Eight: add highlights
Paint in the highlights of your subject again using the white egg tempera paint. This is the final stage so make sure you are happy with the detail. Your painting should look like a greyscale image, where you have established all the tones. The final stage is to add local colour, such as the green of the background and his red clothes.
Verdict for the Mische Technique
The Mische technique is certainly time-consuming, but rewarding when finally completed. I think it would be ideal to learn it from going to a workshop rather than trying to do it from what you’ve read on websites. I had to experiment and guess what I was meant to do half the time, but I think it is the type of technique that can be adapted and experimented with. The artist Brigid Marlin has certainly mastered the Mische technique and I learnt how to do the Mische technique from her website steps for painting in the Mische Technique.
This technique enables you to build up quite a detailed painting that can look three-dimensional and with lots of depth. I think it needs a lot of practice though.
It takes quite a long time to do and you feel like you are obliterating what you’ve already done and then painting it in again. I suppose this is why it appeals to those wanting to create very in depth detailed paintings as you are continually refining your subject in each step.
Other pages of interest
- Buying pigments from an unknown source can make the process a bit of a mystery: Read more about natural pigments bought in Morocco
- A test of the lightfast quality of organic pigments:Read more about natural pigments, how stable are they?
- You will need to use traditional gesso with egg tempera: Read more about traditional gesso
- Before adding any paint, you will need to create an underdrawing: Read more about underdrawing
- Before you can mix up your paints, you need to grind them: Read more about grinding pigments for use with egg tempera
- This is the traditional recipe for making egg tempera paints:Read more about mixing egg yolk with pigment (traditional egg tempera)
- Using this recipe gives a paint that is closer to the quality of oil paints:Read more about the whole egg tempera recipe
- A technique that mixes layers of egg tempera with oil paints: Read more about the Mische technique