Hello Icon Friends,
I’ve begun work on a triptych for my sister Anne, in Australia. She made a lighthearted requests some 7 or 8 years ago, saying how much she would love to have one of those icons that ‘open out’. I never forgot her wish and it was wonderful when Aidan confirmed that standing and seated figures were part of the curriculum so my triptych could be included in the course work.
Dylan Hartley, in Ironbridge hand-made the quarter-sawn oak panels and gessoed them ready for me to sand. With the great benefit of hindsight, I should have asked him to treat them with Cuprinol in the workshop so they could be covered evenly on all sides – but it was only when I thought about posting the boards to Australia that I realised they would need to be treated due to their strict import regulations. A few days after I had applied the treatment and varnished the oak, the boards warped but the gesso was unharmed – no cracks.
Anne had told me what she had in mind for this triptych: Arhcangel Raphael (the Shining One who Heals) and Archangel Michael, the Warrior, either side of the Blessed Virgin and Child. Aidan introduced me to the magnificent angels of Chora to adapt to fit the side panels – the original wall paintings fit in tapered panels set within a domed ceiling.
Next stage was to prepare the gessoed panels by sanding in sequence through the grades of sandpaper from 80 grit to 1200 grit to prepare for water gilding. it took the best part of three full days to sand and bole the boards ready for gilding.
With all the irregular surfaces and curves covered in gesso, it was difficult to sand back enough to articulate the shapes without also revealing some of the linen scrim. As soon as I saw the scrim, I avoided the area and only smoothed it with the finer grades of sandpaper. It eventually covered (almost) under 13 layers of bole.
It is very fiddly to apply layers of bole around narrow spaces so this time I masked the whole area out with masking fluid with a little added pigment.
Before removing the masking fluid, I scored the edges to avoid lifting the bole.
More on gilding in the next post – with a few tips on what not to do!
Thanks for reading,