class by De Ann Singh
There are a number of methods of applying gold leaf to your artwork. There is raised gold that is on a ground of “gesso” and shines more brilliantly than anything else. This is the method that seems you have to be a “chemist” to accomplish. I remember wearing a respirator and big rubber gloves and using a muller to grind a batch of gesso and thinking, “ Gee,when I started calligraphy all I wanted to do was address pretty envelopes!!!!” I felt like a mad scientist at the time. I haven’t made a batch of gesso since, and I think that’s been 17 years ago. Having said that, nothing compares to raised, burnished gold on a gesso base.
Another method is considered “flat” gold. A traditional material to use is gum ammoniac. This is called the adhesive. You need to apply some kind of adhesive to the paper in which to stick the gold. I gave up this method after straining sticky gum ammoniac through a nylon stocking after heating it in the microwave. (I don’t think this is the historic way of preparing this adhesive). There are many acrylic based liquids that serve as adhesive for flat gilding.
The liquid that I have had the best success with and is very easy to use is a mixture of Sobo glue and water. Sobo is a white craft glue that is PVA or poly vinyl acetate. I will describe the procedure of gilding using this adhesive.
Mix 2 parts Sobo glue with 1 part water.
Add 1 drop red watercolor or gouache (the red is added to make the glue show up on the paper after it dries).
Carefully paint the areas that you want the gold to stick to with the mixture described above.
Paint 3 thin coats of glue on desired area. Let the glue dry between coats or the paper will wrinkle. Try not to get “brush strokes” in the glue, you want the surface to be as smooth as possible.
Clean your scissors and burnisher with silk (so gold won’t stick to them).
Cut piece of 23k patent gold to the size needed. (Easy Leaf 6001 Santa Monica Bl. LA CA 90038, Hollywood)
Remove your lipstick.
Breathe hot air onto the area you painted (very similar to fogging up your glasses to clean them).
Place the gold very carefully face down on the desired area.
Press down gently all over the surface of the adhesive, don’t rub at this point.
Pull the gold up very gently. Save big pieces and any salvageable pieces of gold for other areas. Don’t obsess over saving every bit, though.
Place a piece of glassine (the paper that stamps come in from the post office) over the gold and gently burnish down the edges and surface with a dog tooth agate burnisher. Other spoon shape burnishers work but don’t use metal directly on the gold leaf. Look at the gold through the glassine. It will help to see any defects, cracks and tears in the gold. If there are, put some more gold right over the top of the defect and burnish it down. Gold will stick to gold. You may need to breathe on it again before you apply the patch.
Use a soft brush to brush away the excess gold, moving in the direction of the design, try not to pull the gold away from the edges.
Use a #16 blade x-acto knife to clean up the edges. Do this by pulling the blade along the right side of the design and scrape the gold and glue so that it has a clean line. Do this around all the gold. It helps to pull the blade toward yourself.
When you are all finished, do the final burnishing.If you use the agate burnisher you can burnish directly onto the gold. If you use a metal one, place the glassine between the gold and the burnisher. Rub over the whole design and watch it polish up to a very nice shine.
This method gives a very respectable gilded surface and can be used with a moments notice and only takes a little while to complete.