Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Egg Tempera with Koo Schadler

Egg tempera workshop with Koo Schadler. Koo, in the front of the room, 
preparing a demonstration. Participants' paintings are in various stages 
of progress.

I am glad to have spent two weeks with Koo Schadler in her egg tempera workshop at her studio in New England. Koo is a fount of information and our days were filled with demonstrations, presentations and lots of time to paint. For information about Koo's work and classes, visit

I prepared several weeks ahead of time, and worked up a "sketch" by arranging elements into a composition using Adobe Photoshop. This included a trip to Calypso Farm in Illinois to photograph llamas, one of which was to be the subject of my painting. I sent my composition to Koo and she suggested several changes to strengthen the piece.

An early stage of my painting. Here, I've just begun to work up the
background pattern. I have also started working on the llama, blocking
in the larger areas of color first.

Still in progress, the background pattern is nearing completion, and
the llama has been worked up to an almost finished state.

Egg tempera paints are basically pure pigments, in powder form, mixed with an egg yolk-and-water solution. It involves some work because the paint must be kept wet; once it dries on the palette it should not be rehydrated and used again. So the paint must be made once or twice a day. I found my paints kept a little better using a small porcelain palette — I use small amounts of paint, and this kept them puddled and moist, as opposed to spread out and dry on a flat palette. An egg solution is made from pure yolk mixed with water - approximately 1 to 1. Then, this egg solution is added to the pigment paste (pigment and water), and mixed well (called tempering). Enough egg solution must be used to bind the pigment to the surface of the painting, but not so much as to cause cracking and peeling.

My palette for my painting includes earth colors (ochres, siennas and umbers), greens (chromium oxide green, sap green, viridian), blues (cobalt, ultramarine and Prussian), black and titanium white. 

I love working in Koo's workshops. Working alongside other people is a wonderful way to learn. I love looking at other participants' paintings – it enriches how I work to see others utilize techniques and what they can accomplish. Koo's workshop studio is a lovely place to work... it looks out over a farm, and the landscape is inspiration in and of itself. And there were fresh treats from the garden every day – carrots and sugar snap peas. 

A close-up showing the detail of the brush strokes used to
create the texture of the fur.

Koo covered a wide range of topics...including working with gold leaf, setting up and photographing still lifes and portraits for use as reference, preparation of a gesso panel (egg tempera is usually worked on a wood panel with rabbit skin glue), composition, color, and more. Especially helpful was being able to watch Koo work on a painting, laying down base colors and then building up to detail. Koo never missed a beat...she was quick answer all questions, made her way around the studio to check on everyone's progress...always quick to share her knowledge. 

I am continuing work on my llama portrait...once the background pattern is finished, it will be glazed to darken it, so it moves more to the background and doesn't fight with the llama for attention. I'm not sure yet if I'll add some subtle shadows. And lastly, I'll turn my attention to bringing out the highlights on the llama, and refining the edges of her fur. 

Thanks to Koo and her husband, Jeff, for a wonderful workshop and their hospitality. Thanks to all the wonderful workshop participants who broadened my horizons.

Images ©2016, Karen Ackoff.

Sunday, October 30, 2016


Below are recent and upcoming exhibitions. I am happy to announce that my piece, Tlingit Whale, won an Award of Excellence in the Small But Mighty exhibition.

 Tlingit Whale. Egg tempera on Arches hot press watercolor paper. 
 Size: 3.25 x 7.75 inches. ©2005, Karen Ackoff. 

Small But Mighty
January 3 – 26, 2017
Christopher Art Gallery
Prairie State College
202 S. Halsted
Chicago Heights, Illinois 60411

Unified for 25
September 6, 2016 – May 14, 2017
The History Museum
808 West Washington Street
South Bend, Indiana 46601

Faculty Exhibition
September 19 – October 29, 2016
Indiana University South Bend
Gallery, Education & Arts Building
1700 Mishawaka Avenue
South Bend, Indiana 46634

Prints of my work are now available at:

Alexia Scott Studio Gallery
106 Little Falls Street
Falls Church, Virginia 22046
Open First Fridays, 5pm – 8 pm, or by appointment
Ph: 703 380–5953 | Email:

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Gulliver's Travels

I was going through some old photographs and found some pictures of my little rescue squirrel, Gulliver. Gulliver was a piney squirrel that was sick and orphaned. He went everywhere with me, hence the title of this blog.

Gulliver, hungry and lost, asked to one of my students to pick him up. She put him in a shoebox and brought him to me. Poor little fellow didn't know how to feed himself, had lost most of his fur, and had lost his mum. I brought him home, put him on a heating pad, and fed him kitten milk replacer. 

This is what he looked like when I first brought him home. He had just a little fur on his face, feet and tail. Other than that, he was pretty much naked. A number of things could have caused this, including mange, fungal infections, malnutrition, etc.

I wasn't able to enlist the help of veternarians or wildlife rehabbers, so I figured I was going to feed him well. I learned how to make squirrel chow - milk whey with lots of pulverized vitamins and minerals. Later on, I offered him avocado, berries, applies, grapes, bell peppers, oranges, peas, corn, bananas, and pomegranates.

Gulliver came to me mid-November 2008. He remained hairless for quite a few months. Then one day, I noticed he was covered in a coppery fuzz. Before too long, he recovered fully and had a beautiful fur coat.

Gulliver, my little rescue squirrel, sick and orphaned.

Gulliver, with his shiny fur coat.
I kept Gulliver for about 9 months. The nights started getting cooler, so I set about acclimating Gulliver to my backyard. I set up a large cage on my back porch for him. He soon showed interest in exploring, so I began to leave his cage door open. I provided him with a nestbox high in a tree and hung a feeding tray from a cherry tree. Because he didn't know how to cache of food for the winter, I set food out for him through the winter. 

Gulliver in the winter of 2009, chowing down on avocado and raspberries at his feeding station.

Gulliver lived in my backyard for quite a few years. He always stopped and listened if I called his name. I've since moved, and the people who bought the house say they see a little red squirrel in the backyard... so it's either Gulliver or maybe one of his babies.

I love happy endings!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Making Archival Prints

On one of the the forums I frequent, there has been discussion of archival printers and printing. For those artists who make their own archival prints (or wish to), I am providing the settings that I use. These settings work for me. You should, of course, test any settings and make adjustments to suit your own needs and preferences.

The settings below are for an Epson Stylus Pro 3880 printer and an Epson Perfection V700 PHOTO scanner, with Epson brand watercolor paper. I downloaded the profiles for the scanner and printer from the Epson web site. You should make appropriate substitutions for the equipment/materials that you use. 


Monitor. Calibrate your monitor. I work on Macintosh computers, and calibration can be accessed by choosing System Prefs > Displays > Color. Choose CALIBRATE and follow the steps. You may wish to make/save more than one calibration if you work both daytime and evening, as light changes and can affect what you see on the monitor.

Scanner. All scanners are not equal. Consider optical resolution and optical density. You might also consider other features, such as being able to scan negatives or slides. Don't overlook the obvious - clean the scanner glass before you start. I use isopropyl alcohol because it doesn't leave streaks. At minimum and when scanning original artwork, I recommend scanning at 100% of the output size (the size at which the image will be printed) and 300 dpi. Output to TIFF or PSD formats. If your scanner has a high speed option, deselect it.

If your work is too large to scan, you can take a high resolution digital photograph or you might consider having a printing bureau make a high resolution scan for you.

Scan of a work in progress, scanned at a high resolution of 1800 dpi on an Epson Perfection V700 PHOTO scanner.


SCAN. A scanner will produce an RGB image. If you plan to use the scanned image for making archival prints, leave the image as RGB (do not convert it to CMYK). 
Image type: 24 bit color
Resolution: 1800 dpi*
Scale: 100%
Unsharp Mask: Low
Speed Priority Scanning: Deselect
Configuration: Color Control

*I scan at a high resolution of 1800 dpi as I sometimes need details of my work to illustration articles for publication. By scanning at this resolution, I can always downsample my work AND I have adequate resolution for showing enlargements of detail.

PHOTOSHOP. Check manufacturers web sites for profiles for scanners, printers and paper products. 
Mode: RGB
Convert to Profile: RGB profile > Epson 3880 WC Paper
Assign Profile: Epson 3880 WC Paper
Color Settings: Working space > RGB > Epson 3880 WC Paper

PRINT. Pigment-based inks are generally used for producing archival prints. A printer that has separate cartridges for each color lets you replace only the color that you've run out of. When choosing a printer, consider the size of the output and whether or not you need to use roll paper.
Color handing: Printer handles color
Set paper size: 13x19
Page Setup: Manual Rear (depends on your printer)
Media Type: Epson WC Paper
Color Mode: Epson Standard (RGB) (or appropriate setting for your printer)
Output resolution: 2880 dpi (the highest setting possible)
DESELECT high speed printing
SELECT finest detail

Before you print, run a test sheet to make sure the printheads are not clogged. Run a cleaning cycle, as necessary, until the heads are printing clean.