I found myself thinking about the process of guilding for an Icon. Also the actual construction of the Ark of the Covenant as well. And all those fantastic gilded antiquities. Get it right and it lasts forever.
It is interesting that since the earliest civilisation, gilding in one form or another has been used to represent the epitome of something that is quite ordinary, made into something that represents power and status through the craftsmanship of gilding.
I have done various forms of gilding myself so I understand the process for building the levka. Ideally this is made from cypress,poplar,oak,beech,alder or lime. However as anything over about 30cm needs a couple of spleens as a bracing system to stop the wood warping, it is considered expedient to use plywood for larger works. Anyway, If you want to get into using tempera, it's better to get Ceninni's Book. It's translated now. However the first book I bought was 'The Technique of Icon Painting', by Guillem Ramos-Poqui. This is a well written introduction, and essential for someone wanting to have a good working idea of what to do.
Back to the gilding. I had this lovely thought this morning that we tend to see the gold as representing the 'light of God' in an Icon, and forget the glue that holds it all in place is the very complex and technical part of the process.
Right throughout every stage of production some form of glue or binding is being used to make everything hold together. Generally the muslin layer that covers the wooden panel is Rabbit foot glue, then the gesso is made with a weaker version of the glue. Not getting bubbles of air in it takes some practice! Then each layer of the gesso is laid on, allowed to dry and sanded to keep the panel smooth. Get the consistancy wrong and it cracks if it is too hard, or chalky if it is too soft.
Then for water gilding you make a bole of clay. This comes in made up form, and also powdered so you can mix your own colours. This underlays the gold leaf, and acts as a cushion for it. This is also made with gelatine, water and spirit, which is the glue factor. I think the Russians might have used Vodka, however my book says methylated spirits solution. (Both rot your liver, so they probably are best not drunk during the process). Yup I learned to do water gilding out of a book!
Well the point of this little muse, is to say that Gold itself is only representational of status and power, it is the use it is put to that denotes a civilised world.
I like it that the coronation chair in the UK is unadorned. It is not a grand throne, but a well made slightly battered chair. It is the investiture of power, symbolised by orb and sceptre, and the willingness of our Monarch to allow the mantle of servanthood to be placed on their shoulders that defends our freedom.
Anyway, I double gided the panel for the St George Icon. I wasn't intending to paint on the icon at this stage, just learn how to gild. The I thought what the heck, I may as well try painting on it anyway, I don't think the paint is meant to stick on gold! Only one bit of it has come off in the cloak, and I hadn't learned the idea of scraffito at that point. I then decided to scruff some of the gold up on the background after I put the paint on. I always think I might try to sort out those piles of rubble that are meant to be Holy Mountains, but after all this time, they might as well stay like that.
The St George Icon is on the Learning to write Orthodox Icons page, I did think to take a picture of the sketch underneath. I just did this freehand in Garlic juice, then went over it with a mixture of Ivory Black and Mars Black. I then used garlic juice inside the outlines.
Must have done it about four years ago, I will check to see if there is a date on the photo files. (Don't ask me, I have to ask other people what day of the week it is!). Funnily enough this is one of the first questions you get asked when you get admitted to a psychiatric ward. I got wise to that one, and check my diary before I go in. Wearing a watch with a date and day is very helpful as well. I am quite aware that I am on a different planet as far as everybody else is concerned. It must be extremely frustrating for everybody else that I do things in my own time. I think I might just make it all up as I go along. Works for me!
Some twat came round a sharp bend on my side of the road this morning, talking about taking a wide bend. A shade of a second later and we would have had a head on collision. I managed to get my wheels to stay gripping on wet leaves, and only a slight squeel of protest from my back left that wanted to take a sideways into the wall. If I drove an automatic there would be no hope of getting out of insurance companies at dawn. The engine inertia wouldn't have made it possible to break that easily. He did give me a wave as he sailed on down the hill. My Mazda MX5 has got those nice new tyres back in May, and it doesn't like being rushed about in an inconsiderate haste when not required. I will put that gentleman in the same class as the guy that couldn't get his pin number into the card machine at the petrol station because he was too vain to wear glasses!
Actually, I might put that other post on Iconography and this bit on pages on that button up top later.