Icon Diploma Student

Learning to see with the eye of the heart

Posts tagged ‘icon painting’

Oil Gilding the Council of Archangel Michael (pt2)

Summer is the best time for gessoing icon boards. It’s a messy job and I like to make the most of working outside especially sanding the boards. I wrote about the method of gessoing on an earlier post here.

3 sanding the large icon board.jpg

Making the most of a dry sunny day to sand the gesso smooth

I felt that the icon of the Council of the Archangel Michael should be painted on a large board as there are a lot of figures. I don’t know the size of the original icon, but small faces can be tricky so the size I went for was the optimum I can work with at home: 40 x 42cm. With it being cut from 24mm birch ply it’s quite heavy.

I placed the board on a towel to prevent it from sliding around the table whilst I sand. Red ochre rubbed over the surface helps to show up any scratches I had missed.

Once it had been sanded down with 1200 grade sandpaper, it was ready to oil gild. I chose the oil gilding method (matt finish gold) because it’s more robust than water gilding.  Having so many figures and faces it will be handled quite a bit during painting.

finding scratches

Red ochre shows up scratches which still need to be sanded

I moved my drawings on to tracing paper so it was ready to transcribe on to the gesso. Although it is possible to oil gild after painting, I prefer to gild before painting the faces. I find both methods of gilding challenging so I will keep practising!

It isn’t necessary to scribe the areas to be gilded with the oil gilding method but I find it helps contain the shellac. Aidan Hart protects the gesso from the compass points with a wooden ruler which works very well but if you don’t have a ruler to hand, several layers of masking tape over some card helps (see photos below).

transcribing halo on icon

compass points on gesso

Protecting the gesso from compass puncture marks

Anyone of a ‘certain age’ will understand when I say that some red ochre rubbed over the scribed areas helps me to see where I’m going!

transcribing drawing

Aidan taught us the following method of oil gilding which I will summarise below. You can also see some amatuer video clips from our class demonstration on You Tube here.

Gold transfer leaf is applied on to several layers of shellac but first the gesso is sealed by painting on a thin layer of tinted shellac. Tinting is done with a pinch of red ochre or vermillion. Leave it to dry for a day then lightly sand working your way through the sandpaper grades from 600-1200. The following day, repeat the process but using untinted shellac. Leave it for a day and then sand as before.

shellac on halos for icon gilding

Shellac ready to sand

It is then ready to gild. Aidan suggested using Le Franc’s 3 hour gold size. Shake well then apply one very thin layer and place it in a dust free place, like a plastic box.

Wait for an hour at least (1-3 hours) then test whether it is ready to gild by touching the surface with your knuckle. If it squeaks, it is ready to apply gold transfer leaf. If not, wait a little longer and re-test. Drying time depends on the thickness of the layer and the drying conditions.

Small areas of shellac are fiddly to sand smooth and as you can see under the scrutiny of the camera, there are a few missing dots. However, I’ve since touched these up with some shell gold.

oil gilding on icon

Oil gilded halos

Wait two or three hours and then it should be ready to polish the gold using a gilder’s mop, working from light to medium pressure.

After waiting a few days to let the gilding harden, I could carry on with transferring the rest of my drawing.

transfer of whole drawing

Gilding complete, time to transcribe the rest of the drawing

I kept the compass protection pads on so I could add the halo outlines as soon as the sky had been painted. That’s all for this post but I will sign off with a photo of the icon a bit further along.

underpainting icon of Council of Archangel Michael

Outlines of figures applied and underpainting begins

Once again, thanks for reading!

Ronnie

St David the Dendrite (part 3 of 3)

Here’s the icon of St David taking shape. It is painted on a long thin board, 25mm birch ply. This post is mostly photos but always happy to hear from you if you have any questions.

icon painting studio

St David the Dendrite (tree dweller) of Thessaloniki

St David the dendrite of thessaloniki icon

Lines transcribed in red ochre on to gessoed board (photo enhanced for clarity)

The masking tape is to protect the gesso from the compass point.

terre verte pigment on icon

First washes of terre verte over background

adding a wash of lapis lazuli over the terre verte

Adding a wash of lapis lazuli over the terre verte

green background on icon of st david

Finishing background so I can add outline to halo

underpainting the face

underpainting the face

jaipur paint brush in use

David and Crystal visited India and brought me back a brush from Jaipur

completed icon (in part) of St David with his open hand feeding a robin

completed icon (in part) of St David with his open hand feeding a robin

7 membrane over face

Membrane applied in thin layers to face using yellow maimeri and a dash of english red ochre light.

Thanks for reading!

Ronnie

Living up a Tree (St David pt 2 of 3)

study on watercolour paper of st david of thessaloniki

St David offering food to a bird

Before I began to paint an icon of St David the Dendrite, I sat down to draw him. There are many lovely icons of St David, but there is one fresco in particular which really appealed to me.  The saint is depicted as an elongated figure with a toe-length beard wearing a light ochre garment set against a green background, amidst a leafy almond tree.

I haven’t been able to find the name of the iconographer to acknowledge him or her and would love to hear from you if you recognise the original fresco image.

pencil sketch of st David

Pencil sketch of Saint David up a tree with print of fresco image alongside

I used this fresco image as a reference to make my own drawing sketched on watercolour paper. Adding colour was the best way of seeing how it would look on the long thin icon board which I had already gessoed using a thick 25mm birch ply.

pencil sketch of st David

Pencil drawing of St David the Dendrite

I referred to my library of icon images to find male saints which helped me to construct the face.

 

English ochre and black - colour palette

Colour palette – English ochre and black

Here’s the overall study with some more icons of this tree dweller.

st david of thessaloniki icon

Drawing and study on watercolour paper together with reference images

This icon study is now available to buy in my Etsy shop here. I will sign off with an image of my finished study in black and white.

drawing st David
Drawing of St David of Thessaloniki

Last part of this article will be about the finished icon…to be continued soon.

Thanks for reading,

Ronnie

 

Cold gesso, no bubbles

apply cold gesso

Class demonstration by Janina on how to apply gesso cold.

One of the many benefits of our time on the icon course was how much we learnt from each other as well as from our tutor Aidan Hart and from the icon board and church furniture maker Dylan Hartley. I have written about our time learning how to apply gesso warm but today I would like to share what our group learned from one of our fellow students, Janina Zang. Janina gave us a demonstration of how to apply the gesso chilled, when it had set like a jelly. She had learned this technique from a Benedictine monk.

preparation of gessoing board.

Scrim glued to the ply board.

There are two significant advantages to this method. The cold gesso means that there are hardly any bubbles as you apply it, and if you can’t finish applying all the layers in one day, put a damp tea towel over the boards, go to bed and resume the work the next day.

You still need to prepare the ingredients as for the warm method and have most of the following ready:

ronnie cruwys illustration for gesso

Kit for gessoing is still the same but the spatula is a different shape.

The recipe is exactly the same as given in Aidan’s book. 

Follow Aidan’s instructions for the gesso mix and apply the glue and the scrim layers. Let the boards dry out for a day then make up the gesso mix in the quanity that you need, remembering to seive it and decant back to the container. The only difference is that from here,  you put it in the fridge and leave it overnight.

rabbit size to make gesso for icons

Cornelissens whiting spooned into the rabbit skin size

This is the best part. The following morning, the gesso is good to go. Just take enough gesso out of the fridge to work on for the next few hours. Allow it to warm up to room temperature for half an hour and you have a full day to get straight down to applying the gesso to the boards. Keep your working gesso in a plastic sandwich box to prevent it drying out – especially on a hot day. Top up from your main supply in the fridge during the day.

The gesso has a consistency of blancmanche and all the pin sized bubbles disappear as you spread the gesso on the board in thin layers using a wide spatula. Fifteen layers takes the gesso up to a thickness you can sand without reaching through to the scrim.

using a spatula to apply the gesso in thin layers

Use a spatula to apply the gesso in thin layers

Keep a bucket of water beside you to rinse off the spatula from time to time as you can see it clogs up quickly in warm weather. I had quite a few boards I wanted to gesso as I’m preparing for an exhibition next Spring 2018, at the Blossom Street Gallery in my old home town of York.

icon boards laid out to gesso

boards laid out on towels to gesso

The large board will be for my main icon, but more on that in another post.

Gesso on iconboards

Gesso drying off outside under shelter

During the gesso process, the sides get splashed and set very hard. The easiest way to clean these up is with a small electric palm sander, like the Makita.

Splashes of gesso on sides of boards

Splashes of gesso on sides of boards

I sit the boards in a towel clamped in a work bench outside and the boards then have a lovely crisp edge.

iconboards sanded and ready

All done!

I’m very happy with how these have turned out – not pin hole bubble in sight!

Big thanks to Janina and the Benedictines for sharing this method!

Thanks to you too for reading.

Ronnie

Crib Sheet No 1: Grinding Azurite to make Pigment for Paint

azurite-from-burslem-lapidary

Azurite in its mineral form

I recently volunteered to give a demonstration of grinding minerals to make pigment for painting to a local networking group – W.I.R.E. (Women in Rural Enterprises). I haven’t given a demonstration before but since it will be a small friendly audience, it’s a good place for me to make a start.

slab and muller with azurite

Slab and muller to grind up the pigment

I’ve written several times already about grinding pigments but this time I’ve gathered my notes together as a crib sheet which you can downdoad grinding-azurite-for-painting-by-ronnie-cruwysas a four page pdf.

I’ve also just set up a fixed page on this website, called ‘Crib Sheets’, which I hope to add to in future. This first set of notes has been saved to the new page and I hope to add many more…well, that’s the plan!

Thanks for reading.

Ronnie

Herald of Spring

Greetings icon friends!

Warmest wishes for Candlemas on Thursday!  Here’s Archangel Gabriel, first icon of 2017.

icon by Cruwys

Archangel Gabriel

This post is short and sweet while I’m gathering my thoughts on varnishing icons…or rather questions. I’d love to hear of people’s preferences – there seem to be so many options yet each with drawbacks.

Bye for now

Ronnie

PS Prints and cards of this icon are now available from Smith York Printers.

Three days on a Triptych

icon class

Icon Diploma Students taken at Aidan Hart’s May session 2015

Hello icon friends and class mates,

I’m just back from a three day intensive painting our standing/seated figures. I brought my gilded triptych centre panel already prepared with the image transferred so I could start to paint in class.

icon outline drawing

Transferring outline on to gessoed panel

Just to rewind a little, I photocopied my drawing on to tracing paper to locate the outline prior to water gilding. After gilding, I rubbed red ochre pigment into the back of the tracing paper/drawing itself (rather than using an intermediary sheet), and using a fine propelling pencil with a fairly hard lead, transferred the image on to the board.

tracing paper drawing

Drawing of icon on tracing paper

Once all the main lines were transferred on to the board, a weak mix of pigment fixed the lines in place. I then began the underpainting and modelling of the garments.

underpainting icon

First stage of underpainting

Aidan suggested that I used Red Ochre for the Blessed Virgin’s upper garment as it has some blue in it. I also used Lapiz Lazuli Dark, a beautiful natural blue and Ivory Black to deepen both colours; all pigments are from Cornelissen’s.

ivory black and red ochre

Ivory black and Red Ochre pigments

Both pigments are very strong so I mixed them up separately first, then blended. For the underpainting I used a lovely size 2 Roubloff 1010 kolinsky sable brush which I had recently ordered from Vesta-k. It has a really sharp point and holds the pigment well.

underpainting garments

Building up the underpainting of the garments

I mixed black to the lapiz lazuli and red ochre in varying degrees to give depth to the underpainting. The deeper shadows are painted using a lot of black in the mix.

lapiz lazuli

First layer of membrane applied using a wash of pure Lapiz lazuli over the underpainting.

membranes on icon

Membranes on the garments

Pure red ochre and lapiz membranes washed over the underpainting with a very thin layer of lapiz washed over the red afterwards to unite the garments.

After several layers of membrane, I applied a nourishing layer of 20% egg 80% water and let it dry before going over the shadows and adding highlights. Aidan suggested fine layers of pure white dry-brushed over the membrane to give translucent layers of highlights.

The underpainting of the Christ Child is in English Yellow Ochre with a little Red Ochre added to model the form. The colours are painted quite densely as the garments will be gilded using shell gold assist. I understand from my class mate Lee that for the crispest, most gleaming gold lines, hand-made shell gold is the way to go – thanks Lee! Watch this space for adventures in making shell gold – I rang Wrights of Lymm for a couple of books of gold today!

three days work

Three days work

Thanks for reading.

Ronnie

Working with St Francis

st Francis

Work in progress on St Francis of Assisi

Hello icon friends,

A very happy Easter to you all and a warm welcome to the recent people following my blog. You have nudged me back to the desk to post some work after being away for far too long. Thank you!

I have a backlog of four icon boards to finish but thought I would start with a summary of work to one of my half figure icons – St Francis, chosen as I am so often calling on his help with one or the other of our pets. I can only trust St Francis knows best as he doesn’t always answer prayers with what I want to hear.

pencil sketch over drawing

Starting with a pencil sketch

I am referring to Aidan Hart’s image of St Francis (the one with him holding a robin) for this icon and began with a pencil sketch which I photocopied and went over with a black line ready to transfer on to a birch ply board prepared by Dylan Hartley.

lines transferred

Transferring lines using red ochre rubbed into a sheet of paper

light wash in red ochre on icon

Light wash of red ochre to define the forms

I have learnt to go very lightly with these first lines on the face, especially the lines on upper moustache and below the eyes. Use pigment with no egg so that the lines aren’t fixed and hard.

face underpainting of st francis

Underpainting the face and garments

I used Cornelissen’s Terre Verte with a dash of Stuart Stevenson’s yellow Ochre light to underpaint the face, making sure that it was dark enough to withstand 3-4 layers of membrane.The membrane was the same yellow ochre with a small dash of English Red Light.

membrane layer on face

First membrane layer applied to the face

membrane layers

Building up the membrane layers

I applied four membranes to the face as I was looking for a warm, even Mediterranean skin tone. The underpainting was just still visible. Some of the dry pigments brushed off as the egg tempera mix had got a little weak but I remembered the benefit of applying a nourishing layer of egg stock (approx 80% water 20% egg)  which helped stabilise the pigments.

face highlights

Adding highlights to the face

background layers

Building up the background layers

I am not going into the garments here as I made a bit of a hash of them! I used varying mixes of English Red Light and Ivory Black but I was too heavy-handed with the darks. I lost the translucency and almost sanded the whole lot off to start again, but Aidan thought they could be improved so I persevered. I am glad I did.  I recalled from one of the weeks spent at Walcott Hall that Avana is a pigment that can rescue many a difficult colour situation. I applied several thin washes and it seemed to soften the starkness of the red robes and evened the shading a little so I could almost start afresh with the highlights.

adding red ochre

Adding English Red highlights to cheeks, mouth, eyelids and nose

Adding light washes of English Red Light really adds warmth to the face. I still have the eyes to finish but the next stage is the background, halo and lettering and making good some of the highlights follwing my last class review.

Thanks for joining me here and if you are still reading, I am sorry I haven’t posted for so long as I had a bit of a set back when I fell and fractured my pelvis (in 3 places) and my drawing arm in two places – I only fell over our own back door step! I am well and truly on the mend now though and gradually catching up.

This post is dedicated to Leo; as I said not so long ago, we are only ever their keepers.

Thanks for reading.

Ronnie

Ollie and Leo

Ollie and Leo