Gilding in Depth


The big thing I'm learning with this project is that master techniques really take forEVER. Pretty much all I accomplished this week was painting on some red bole (to go under my gilding) and starting the smallest bit of painting. I haven't even gotten to the egg tempera yet. I just did a base layer in gouache (kind of between watercolor and acrylic).

I talked a little bit about what bole is last week, but this week I'll explain the whole process of applying it to a painting. As you can see here, bole is applied in very thin layers so that you can get an even coat of it. The first layer is mostly water and rabbit skin glue with only a small bit of pigment so that you can see where you've applied it. The glue helps keep the bole from being completely absorbed into the panel. Then, more bole is added so that there is more pigment, but it still has a pretty liquid consistency

To the right you can see how the bole darkens and gets shinier after burnishing. Bole isn't burnished until the gold is placed on top, so you really never see the bole like this, but we did a little test to make sure that the bole was compressing correctly. Sometimes if your bole is too watery or gluey, you'll have a hard time getting your gold to shine.

In the picture below, you can see some gilding tools - a gold cutting knife, a squirrel brush (made with a squirrel's tail hair, used to gently pick up the gold leaf), and a suede pad (used as a cutting board).

There are different kinds of gilding, but I used the water gilding technique. First you pre-wet by brushing some water onto the bole. Then you wait for it to be absorbed just a bit before brushing on more water - enough so that when you lay the gold sheet onto the water, the surface tension of the water smooths it out perfectly.

In order to pick up the gold with the squirrel brush, you have to get a bit of static or grease in it. Supposedly some people can just rub it in their hair and it's just the right amount of grease and static that they can pick up the gold just fine. I just put a bit of lotion on my hand and brushed the brush on my hand. After the gold is laid down, it's good to press it down with a cotton ball to make sure it's really adhered and smoothed down.

Then it's time for the burnishing! Agate tools are typically used to rub the gold until it gets super shiny, although Nina told me that they were sometimes made out of animal teeth.

Here are my final results. Note the holes where the gold came off - that means I did something wrong haha. Not gonna lie, this was pretty difficult for me. The good news is that I should be able to patch it up with another round of gilding.

#NinaOlsson

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