Gilding the Triptych
I’d like to share a few thoughts following my attempts to water gild the triptych. It’s Spring here in UK and I love the lighter days and milder weather. I opted to work in the conservatory for the even light and to be immersed in the burst of new green in the garden. I often have cold hands so the warmth in here is wonderful for loosening up my fingers ready for gilding. It’s better to gild in cool, damp weather but I thought I might just get away with it being mild – nope, I didnt! So here is my first tip: if gilding a large area in warmer weather, do it in two or three stages as the bole dries out so quickly. You need time to burnish the gold whilst the bole is still relatively soft soon after double gilding. With hindsight, I should have gilded and burnished all the raised areas as one complete area first, then gilded and burnished all the flat areas afterwards.
Masking out the gesso was helpful as carefully scraping the gold off the gesso after gilding can take an hour or so. For the fiddly areas, I used a sharp scalpel to score along the edges in the same way as I did with the bole (See previous post). The other thing which helped was thirteen layers of bole. These were just enough to cover the tiny air holes in the gesso and the patches of scrim which had shown through. If you are about to gild, then I can recommend Aidan Hart’s class demonstration video clip here on You Tube.
A phone (switched off) makes a handy 10mm/half inch prop to lift the icon board so the water flows away from previously gilded areas. Hand cream is useful to rub on the back of your hand before brushing the squirrel tip across – this helps the gold leaf stick to the tip. Vodka is added to the gilding mix together with Buxton water (PH neutral). I used gold leaf, 23 and 3/4 carat loose, extra thick from Wrights of Lymm, Cheshire. The small jar contains size prepared from rabbit skin glue granules. Other gilding kit consists of a squirrel mop ( the large brush to the top right), a gilder’s cushion and gilder’s knife to cut the gold leaf. Having a cat in the midst is not ideal as hairs blow into the mix. However, at the moment our cat is still out-of-sorts having recently lost her companion and won’t settle unless she has company nearby. If you are about to water gild an icon – here is our class crib sheet of Gilders’ Tips which may help.
This actually looks a lot better than it does in real life but I am glad the gilding is done. Some parts are smooth, some pretty rough in spite of a solid week’s work. Here’s a close-up on the burnishing marks as a result of letting it dry out too much:
Once again, thanks for reading and all the best with your own endeavours. Ronnie