Perseverance. Or idiocy?

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Here I am sanding off the third attempt at gilding this small icon.

I have no idea what is going wrong but I am, currently, unable to produce either water or oil gilding to the standard I expect.

Normally, iconographers don’t share their work problems – if they have any. I am, because I’m not trying to pretend I’m completely perfect or have reached startetz-like levels of prayer. Like my work, I am at the start of a long path and right now, it is covered in sharp rocks and thistles. Or nettles.

I need your prayers, friends. Just a dart whenever you remember. I have consulted two of the best iconographers I know, who are likewise bemused by my difficulties, so it is likely I have tried every single practical option possible.

Other than giving up, right now prayer is my only option.

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2 thoughts on “Perseverance. Or idiocy?

  1. Dear Katherine,

    I am no expert at gilding and only do oil gilding. I find that by first putting two coats of shellac (allowing each coat to thoroughly dry) i.e. after the first coat leave to dry and gently sand the following day then apply another coat, gently sand as before, gently rub off any dust and apply the gold size gently and smoothly with a sable brush. When the gold size is tacky leave it a few minutes more so it is practically dry. Breath on the board – each piece you are going to apply the gold leaf (i.e. gold leaf tracing) – and it should adhere perfectly. Continue each piece one at a time in the same way. It is best to apply the gilding before doing the painting. Some like to apply another set of gold leaf over that one once it is dry, in which case there should be no need to apply shellac (the shellac is just to seal the gesso so the gold size doesn’t seep through the gesso. You may know this already!

    I like your icon of the Lord – what technique did you use and how did you work up the flesh.

    Pray for me,

    Sister Esther

    1. Dear Sister, many thanks for your advice: I suspect my fault is not recognising the point when size is ready for gilding on. I wait for the ‘squeak’ etc but it is always too soon. I will try once more but the gesso is getting perilously thin after three rubbings back!

      For the skin tones, I began using a monochrome underpainting in verdaccio, from Zecchi in Florence. I then used several layers of a flesh toned wash, a mixture of yellow and red with just a touch of white. From this, I build up the usual layers of yellow and white but adding in darker ochre in the shadows, going back and forth until the balance is right. Well, as right as it can be. :)

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