The 2014 First Lady Commemorative Egg

You can imagine the excitement and how honored I felt when the American Egg Board called to ask if I would create the 2014 First Lady Commemorative Egg. Knowing I had plenty of lead-time I answered with an expeditious “yes!” I was told that I had to use an actual chicken egg and the theme should tie in with the Annual Egg Roll at the White House. Other than that I had the freedom to design my egg as I pleased.

I immediately went to work on some concepts. But before I could go further I had to find “a few good eggs”, which were purchased at my local grocery store. I have no doubt that people thought I was a bit daft examining each one as if assessing a million dollar diamond. Some of these folks probably still don’t have any idea what became of one of those perfect jumbo babies.

The preparation process began by drilling small holes in the top and bottom of the eggs so that the contents could be blown out. This is not as easy as it sounds! They were then rinsed out many times and dried. The next step was to reinforce the shells for conservation purposes to prevent any eventual decomposition by coating their interiors with several layers of acrylic varnish. Once totally dried I selected the most perfect of the lot for “the egg.”

As a painter of fine art miniatures my design is relatively complex but was an easy choice: the White House, plenty of colorful eggs, bunnies, chicks, Bo (the First Family's Portuguese water dog), and children delighting in the joys of Easter on the South Lawn. The difficulty was in painting on a round surface, and with our cold winter weather here in New Jersey, my acrylic paint was drying on my tiny brush before I could apply it to the shell. The base that the egg rests on was also constructed by me and had its own challenges to overcome. But overcome them I did and on Monday, April 21, 2014 the American Egg Board’s President and CEO Joanne Ivy, and Chairman Paul Sauder presented the 37th Commemorative Egg to First Lady Michelle Obama at the 136th White House Easter Egg Roll. President Obama also attended the presentation.

Painting the Commemorative Egg:

I began by laying my reference material out in front of me, including photos I took of my neighbor’s child, then sketched my concept on a test egg to establish the placement of all the elements. Once satisfied everything was positioned properly I divided the actual egg into quarters with a few pencil strokes because my design was based on four individual scenes. Using the test egg as a guide I then proceeded to draw directly on the actual egg.

Having painted on an eggshell once before I had an idea how my paints would react. And in order to get a feel for painting on a rounded surface I chose to work on the pants of the main child first. This area was of least importance and easily correctible if I messed up.

In order to establish my overall tonal values I very carefully painted the grass around all of the specific components.

Once the grass was more or less completed I moved on to the individual scenes taking each one almost to completion.
Because I foresaw difficulties in painting the White House and surrounding borders I saved this area for last. When I finally got to them I had an “educated hand”, which made painting all of the tiny intricacies a bit easier.

It was now time to tackle the final touches. I added more grass in front of and around all of the colored eggs, pumped up highlights, painted in the banner script, and signed my name. In order to protect the artwork and shell from the elements, three coats of flexible acrylic varnish were applied.

Once the varnish was dry I carefully inserted a very narrow plastic tube through the bottom hole of the egg and glued it into position bottom and top. The base I constructed has a wire that feeds up into the tube to securely hold the egg in place without the need to glue it to the base. It also allows for easy removal for hanging.

I’m sure the biggest fear for any artist working with eggshells is being at the point of completion then hearing... c-r-a-c-k. This angst didn’t end for me until my egg was delivered into the hands of First Lady, Michelle Obama.

To see the collection of Commemorative Eggs presented to First Ladies of the White House over the years, click HERE. I think you will agree that they are all truly incredible eggs!