Gilding: THE ICON PAINTING TECHNIQUE AND THE WATER-GILDING METHOD Dr. Guillem Ramos-Poquí
Here I want to share with you three aspects of technique , namely the egg media, the cross-hatching, and the water gilding, (which I have used in both the Icon of St Therese of Lisieux and the Calvary for Dublin), following Fr Jacob’s methods (an excellent Greek iconographer from the Monastery of Dionyisiou in Mount Athos) handed to me by my friend, the Greek iconographer Protoklys-Pieris Nicola.
I now use a new method (used by Fr Jacob) for water-gilding which does not require the use of the gilder’s cushion, or gilder’s knife, or gilder’s tip, and which enables you to apply the entire gold leaf in one go!
Following Fr Jacob’s method, the bole is applied using water-gelatine 1:15 (not 1:24), rather thin to start then thicker, the consistency being that of a runny cream, only four to six coats, applied criss-cross. Then comes sanding following the numbers of the wet-and-dry sandpaper, starting with 600, then 800, then 1000 and then 1200 (and you must not mix up this sequence). Then, after sanding to perfection, you go over the surface with a natural sponge (from e.g. Boots) slightly moistened with purified water to remove any bits of dust lying around the bole’s surface. Finally (and this is used by a great icon painter I met in St Petersburg), when the surface is dry, you rub it vigorously in all directions using a nail-brush (from Boots the Chemist) to a perfect polish.
The method I use is the ordinary method of water gilding; the difference is that I use a particular transfer gold. But not all transfer golds are suitable. I use German Ducate 23 ¼ carat transfer gold (from Handover in London, Tel 0207 2729624) . You simply flood the surface of the bole with purified water, using a very large round pointed sable brush (no need to add either meths or a bit of glue to the water, because the bole has already glue in it). Then you simply press the gold leaf onto the damp surface. Using this method, for best results, you should double gild, then you will get a great burnish.