Icon Diploma Student

Learning to see with the eye of the heart

Posts tagged ‘Icon triptych’

Just a little triptych please? No rush.

tryptich icon by ronnie cruwys

Tryptic of Blessed Virgin Enthroned with the Christ Child surrounded by Archangels Michael and Raphael

I’m ‘Number 5’ in a family of six and we straddle the globe from USA to Australia with me here in the UK. We all ask each other favours every now and then, but I think this has to be the slowest request ever to turn around for my dear sister Anne! It was nine years ago that she asked me to paint her a ‘little triptych’ – I was still a brunette back then!

Aidan has suggested that if you are asked to paint an icon that you know nothing about – just go ahead and do it, and learn as you go. This is what has happened here. Saying yes to this request has drawn me into the world of icons, leaving the day job behind. I was relieved when Aidan accepted that these could be part of my set diploma pieces of standing and seated figures, which has meant that I have been able to learn as I go with Aidan’s guidance.

Dylan Hartley, Simon Morris, Ronnie Cruwys with triptych

Right to left: Dylan Hartley, Simon Morris, Ronnie Cruwys

Today I went to collect the finished icon from the workshop where Dylan Hartley made the oak boards, hand-carved the kivotos and gessoed it for me and where Simon Morris of Smith York Fine Art Printers has photo-scanned it, spending hours getting the studio lighting just right so as to reduce the glare from the gilding. Simon has scanned all the icons on this website as well as the printing for my street drawings over at Drawing the Street.

I have written a little about this triptych before in an earlier post when I began work on it here  and as I began to paint here. Further notes on painting the garments here.

Virgin and Child

Blessed Mother and Christ Child

As always with a finished icon, you see so many places which could do with revisiting. Faces and hands are my  weak spots. Feet too, but the slippers help!

The icon will be up in the PSTA Diploma Show in London next week, then will be part of the ‘Spirit Matters’ exhibition in Cornelissen’s window from 25th October to 16th November. From there it will make its way to Australia  where it will be part of Anne’s prayer corner in her home. We all have a lot to be thankful for but especially me with such a loving and supportive family and this sister in particular – I’m so glad she asked!

Thanks for reading,

Ronnie

anne and Ron

Sisters!

Gilding the Triptych

gilding a triptcyh

Gilding a 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.

raised border gilding

Gilding the Kivotos

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.

gilding a door to the icon triptych

Double gilding over the first layer of loose gold on one of the doors

Masking fluid saves time scraping gold from gesso

Masking fluid saves time scraping gold from gesso

gilding kit

Some ingredients for gilding – cat drinking the water for brush-cleaning is optional!

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.

Gilding complete

Gilding complete

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:

Burnishing marks

Burnishing marks

Once again, thanks for reading and all the best with your own endeavours. Ronnie

Triptych begins

Bole and water gilding a triptych

Gilding a Triptych

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.

triptych treated with cuprinol

Treating the oak with Cuprinol

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.

sketch drawings for triptych

Planning the triptych layout: Upper panels include the Holy Face in the Mandilion, with Bethlehem and the New Jerusalem either side.

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.

angel of chora

Detail of one of the Angels of Chora

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.

sanding the gesso

Sanding off the scratches and bumps in the gesso

sanding gesso

Sanding back too far

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.

bole on triptych

Bole applied to triptych

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.

masking gesso

Masking out the gesso before applying the bole

Before removing the masking fluid, I scored the edges to avoid lifting the bole.

Removing masking fluid

Removing masking fluid by scoring a clean edge with a sharp blade.

More on gilding in the next post – with a few tips on what not to do!

Thanks for reading,

Ronnie