Let’s face it – art can be a messy ordeal. And budding Picasso or not, mom wasn’t going to be too thrilled if those new school clothes were ruined in art class. Luckily, for teachers, custodians and parents everywhere, there was the magical medium of Tempera paint, ready to assist the future little Rembrandts paint vivid blue skies, majestic trees, and wild animals aplenty.
The type of Tempera paint used in a typical school shouldn’t be confused with Egg Tempura, a type of paint whose use dates back to the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Greece and was widely used by European artists before oil-based paint was developed. The school version, unlike its historic counterpart, does not contain egg yolks.
Tempera paint is widely used in schools for a number of reasons. It dries very quickly compared to oil paints. It is water-soluble, non-toxic and easily washes out of most clothing, making it safe for even the smallest of artists. Also, it is available in a plethora of vivid colors, making it very popular with art teachers for use in all kinds of projects, from finger-painting to poster boards, where paint is likely to end up in the most unlikely of places.
Kids have always loved to paint, and thanks to Tempera, they can do so safely, exploring their artistic side with reckless abandon and a devil-may-care attitude – then washing up afterward with ease. And when they arrive home, with a landscape under their arm worthy of display on the finest of refrigerators, their parents can beam with pride, blissfully unaware of the virtual paint chaos that accompanied its creation.
If you created a few masterpieces of your own with Tempera paint back in the day, perhaps even something that was proudly displayed on the family Frigidaire, we welcome your memories in our comments section, as we tip our hats to these versatile and non-destructive art supplies.