Sunday, July 15, 2012

All that glitters...



I've wanted to try a combination of oils and metal leaf in a painting for awhile and thought I'd attempt it with a little capelin.  Fish always have a sheen to them so were the obvious choice, at least for me.

Metal leaf is a fine layer of silver, copper or gold, either a pure form or composite material that is laid on a prepared surface.  The result is quite dramatic and near impossible to photograph well due to reflected light.

For this piece I'm using composite silver so I can work out the kinks without investing a lot of money in purchasing sterling silver or 24 karat gold leaf.   An adhesive is applied to the surface and let to sit to achieve a degree of tackiness.  The leaf is like fairy dust its so fine.  It comes on sheets of tissue backing ranging from 1.5 inches up to 5 or 6 inches square.  The metal is laid on the surface and gently brushed on, a similar technique to printmaking in some ways and you hope the leaf has adhered as you pull up the tissue.   Patching is always a given and is fairly seamless.  I use a template to mask the shapes I don't want covered in silver leaf, using tracing paper or similar to act as the shield.


In this piece I have some lumps and bumps where I was impatient in putting down the leaf when the adhesive was too wet.  The adhesive remains tacky up to 36 hours so there's lots of time to apply but only one chance to apply a sheet.   Over some areas that didn't adhere well, I added some gold leaf for interest in random, organic shapes.


The fish is a capelin and painted in oil.  The piece is still in progress so looks rough at the point, as expected.  It will be refined as I continue.   I'm not sure if I will leave the silver/gold leaf as it is and seal it or apply glazes in oil paint.  A glaze could be interesting as the silver would add another dimension in light reflection, not usually seen in transparent oils.  As its an experiment, perhaps I will try it to see what the effect is like.  I will wait until the oil paint on the bottom half of the image is dry as I want a cohesive glaze of colour over the whole piece.

Usually if left on its own, a sealer is used to prevent the metal leaf from tarnishing.  Again, another experiment of some with sealer before oil and without to see what the results are.

If it works well, I'll invest in some sterling silver and 24k gold leaf and work up some ideas for other pieces.

7 comments:

RH Carpenter said...

I really like this and think it will be stunning when finished! I just used some gold leaf on a postcard painting that went awry - the gold leaf was a present and I used acrylic matte medium as the glue - did lift a lot so a lot of patching.

Christiane Kingsley said...

Very nice. Metal leafing is on my "experiments to-do list". You have done a great job with this and I am really looking forward to seeing more of your metal leafing experiments, Jeanette.

Susan said...

beautiful! I like the lumps and bumps! Adding a translucent glaze sounds beautiful.

Jennifer Rose Phillip said...

ooh shiny! i've always wanted to try metal leaf, combine it with coloured pencil somehow.

i like the lumps and bumps, adds some nice texture to the piece :)

Jeanette said...

Its quite an interesting effect isn't it Rhonda? I may have been ambitious covering such a large surface, but that's what its all about, experimenting, right?

Thanks Christiane, I like the sheen against the matte oils. Its good to play around with different combinations.

Susan, thanks. The uneven surface gives more texture and its not unplesant and has flattened out a bit as the glue has dried more. I'll wait a few days for the oil paint to dry a bit before I try a glaze.

Jen, the texture and contrast in shine and matte works well i think. You should have a go with some.

Lisa Le Quelenec said...

This is looking lush, I can see a lot more of these in your future. Have you ever painted on sheet metal, like copper,zinc or steel? You wouldn't get the lovely textures then though.

Jeanette said...

I haven't tried it on those surfaces, but have considered it Lisa. I imagine using transparent oils, the light would bounce back as it would with glazes over the silver leaf here. It should be interesting to try.