Gold leaf is a unique medium with a luster that cannot be matched by paints or metallic pigments. I believe it deserves a more prominent place in art than the gilt on a picture frame. These gilded panels are my response to that belief.
My work grew from my appreciation for the history and practice of the gilding craft and a desire to explore and expand on its traditions. I use materials and techniques that have not changed much since the Middle Ages but apply them in new and non-traditional ways. I make my own gesso from finely ground chalk and rabbit skin glue. I apply 5-7 layers to the fiberboard panel and then prepare the surface by sanding with successively fine sandpaper, beginning with 120 grit and ending with 400 to 600 grit. I then sketch the final design directly on the panel and build up the image with multiple layers of thickened gesso. The colored undercoats (bole), a blend of clays and rabbit skin glue, are also a traditional material that I make use of in non-traditional ways. Several layers of bole are applied over the gesso and provide the burnishable surface essential to water gilding. I blend and combine the variously colored boles to create layered effects. The final element is the precious metal leaf itself, which provides yet another layer of colors and characteristics, depending upon karat. I may use one type of leaf in a piece or combine various karats or metals to create an array of effects. I work with gold ranging from 6k to 24k and also include silver and palladium in my palette of precious metal leafs. Once the bole has dried the surface of the panel is brushed with water. This reactivates the glue in the bole. The leaf is then applied while the surface is still wet. A water gilded surface is matte until it is burnished. I selectively burnish the final piece, which creates a glossy finish in those areas, thus allowing me to take advantage of the play of light that is unique to water gilding; highlighting some areas and leaving others with the soft luster of the un-burnished gilt finish. Finally, I lightly rub through the leaf to bring up the colors of the bole undercoat and to blend the many layers of the surface into a lustrously rich patina.
Care and Feeding The materials used to apply the leaf to your panel are water soluble. Clean or dust only with a soft, dry cloth. Lower karat leafs, including 12k, 16k, and 18k, contain silver and have been sealed to prevent tarnishing. 23k, 22k, and palladium leafs will not tarnish and have not been sealed.