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.