Tuesday, January 05, 2010


My white gold arrived today from a company called Wrights of Lymm. I was a bit worried that the jiffy bag scrunched by the post man had damaged the gold, but it was intact and I have applied it to the "transmittance" picture that I will paint this month. I've gilded three or four pictures so far and it's a skilled operation. Here are some tips for those who want to mordant gild, that is to paint and apply gold in a pattern on their work.

First apply the gold as soon as possible in the process. It's a tricky operation and you'll probably have to overpaint any ragged edges. In 31t Century Crucifixion I applied it after the underpainting, which was okay generally although in parts the gold stuck to the underpainting. I still had to correct the edges with an opaque paint layer so not much was gained by applying it later.

Secondly, get a slow size. Perhaps it's my luck but my 30 minute gold size was dry as hard varnish in about 20 minutes. That's too fast to paint anything in detail. I use a four hour size, although still tacky enough for the gold in well under an hour.

Mix some oil colour into the size so that you can see where it's been applied (that's going to speed up drying by the way). It might be useful to underpaint the area in gold paint, or some other colour so that tiny holes in the leaf will remain invisible. Armenian bole is a colour like venetian red and is a classic choice.

Get loose leaf gold instead of transfer leaf. This is a matter of choice but I find the loose leaf more entertaining and delightful to apply. To cut I use scissors to cut the whole book in half. All gold tools must be used only for gold and kept rigorously clean using alcohol. The slightest touch of moisture or grease will hook onto and spoil the gold.

When applying I mainly use the tissue paper that comes with the gold, and a cotton wool ball. I use a palette knife too which is very smooth and clean, and a gilders knife which is useful for cutting but doesn't seem as clean and smooth as my palette knife. I have a brush called a gilder's tip but don't find it very useful.

I'll brush away the excess tomorrow and start the underpainting later in the week!


Kathy said...

Very instructive, Mark! I haven't used gold leaf and it seems that you've developed an expert way of handling it. Looks like it requires a lot of patience and "know how."

Mark Sheeky said...

I'm hardly an expert! It takes so much skill to use. It's like holding a rectangular veil of water that you can't touch, or the wings. Each breath of air and stroke is amplified a thousand times when dealing with leaf.

I like the final look though, it beats gold paint, and the act of leafing itself is lovely because of the tactile delicate nature of the material.

-Don said...

Great info, Mark. I've considered gold and silver leaf in the past, but have chickened out, so far. Thanks for making it seem less intimidating.