For the last two months I’ve been working on a commission for a community kitchen in Margate.
The brief was to create something along the lines of the Nando’s “check in chicken” (nope, I’ve never been to a Nando’s, so I had to google it), but to base them on my character “Señor Tortuga”.
Week 1 – Design
The first task was to design the overall solution. I decided to go with a wooden spoon and base, given the theme and remit of The Kitchen.
Having ordered materials from that source of all random and unwitting art materials, Amazon, I had to go about the task of drawing an initial paper prototype.
And check that it would fit inside the head of the spoon..
Then before I was able to draw any tortoise outline or add any colour, I had to turn the wood into a canvas – by using gesso to prime the surface.
Week 2,3….. – Priming
In total, priming took about 2 weeks as it required up to 4 layers, both sides, plus drying time across 12 “spoons”.
Week 4 – Outlines
The initial outline for each tortoise, on each side, was done in ink from the beginning – no stencil, no pencil – straight on in ink, copying visually from my initial sketch by hand.
At the same time as drawing 24 sides of outlines, I took one tortoise through to colour, to ensure that the outline would hold enough colour contrasts and combinations.
Week 5,6 – Colours
After establishing that the green colour combinations were successful, I then started the prototype for other colour combos, so I would end up with the following combos:
2. Red/Orange/Yellow (x3)
3. Blue/Blue/Yellow-green (x3)
4. Gold/Brown/Red (x3)
As you can see here, I also had to paint multiple layers of colour on each tortoise, (12×2 sides, 4 different designs). even with the layers of gesso as primer, colours quickly absorbed and needed to be covered over at least 3 times each.
After which, the original black line had been obscured, and so had to be inked over again. (12×2).
Week 7 – Finishing painting
At the end of week 7, several final layers of paint and final black outlines went on.
Week 8 – Drilling, sanding, gluing and lots and lots of varnish
It took a few goes to find a drill bit big enough for this. In the end, had to use 4 different drills sizes and work my way up. And yes, a router would have been easier if I’d had one 🙂
And they all needed to be sanded back afterwards, as the giant drill had basically torn the holes out..
Before gluing, I had to use this little fella to ensure that any remaining gesso was removed from the edges of the artwork.
And then gluing.. using titebond, non-toxic wood glue. Making sure that I left them for 24 hours to ensure no accidentally un-sticking occurred once I moved them for varnish.
Finally, I climbed out on to the roof (sorry neighbours) and applied multiple coats of Golden artists varnish. Initially, gloss varnish to seal the artwork, then a matt varnish to achieve the overall effect I was looking for.
Here you see my impromptu spray hood, with the aim partially of helping the varnish land, but more importantly, keep bits of Margate roof dirt (or seagull contributions) off the drying varnish.
Week 9 – Done & delivered.
Finally these chaps were delivered over to The Kitchen. Mission accomplished.
I’ve been asked a few times about my method and process for gilding, suggestions on materials etc so here we go.
First off, I have to say that all materials knowledge is nabbed wholesale from Julie Caves at Jacksons Art Supplies who gave me all the recommendations that got me started. So any art supply links in this website will go to Jacksons. I’m sure other art supply shops also exist.
Enough caveats. Let’s talk materials.
Art supplies and materials for working with gold leaf on paper
I use one for use with the adhesive above, and one for working with the gold leaf. Only the glue brush shown here, so keep an eye out for a black brush in other pictures. I use brushes that look significantly different so that I don’t mix them up.
Any kind of surfactant can be used, but I use Escoda or DaVinci specialist artist brush soap which is gentle enough not to mess with the glue. Escoda is with olive oil, dontcha know.
5. Gold leaf
I use 23ct gold leaf, 20g. It comes in transfer sheets which are really easy to work with and one pack lasts for ages.
6. Gloves (cloth)
You can buy these from tons of places – they’re light cotton gloves. Breathable enough that your hands don’t sweat, thick enough that the oil on your skin won’t tarnish the gold.
Right that’s enough on the shopping list, now what do we do with them.
Method for Gilding on paper
Here’s how I used the above supplies to create my recent work “Change” which is on display right now at Chiara Williams Contemporary Art exhibition “Afternoon Tea” in Margate.
Step one – planning
First I created a grid to plan out the original drawing. This helps ensure that the buildings form the kind of overall shape I’m aiming for.
Step two – drawing
At this stage I’m drawing the detail of each building, but as I know I’m turning into a digital plate, I don’t have to worry too much about lines going over or minor errors. That’s what Photoshop is for.
Step three – digital print edition (giclee)
The drawing is finished as a digital plate and the edition is printed using archival ink on cotton rag paper.
Step four – creating the tear
In order to recreate the idea of Kintsugi or Kintsukuoroi, the work on paper becomes more sculptural, as the physical form of the paper combines with the content of the drawing.
Each print in the edition of 10 is hand-torn. Although the tear starts and ends in approximately the same location, the path of the tear naturally differs, meaning that each print in the edition is unique, while the original image itself remains consistent.
Step five – adhesive
The print is then carefully reassembled, with the two pieces matched back together as closely as possible. The glue or adhesive is then applied using a small brush. It’s absolutely essential that you take real care at this stage as the gold will stick exactly where you place the glue on the paper.
Here are some hints.
Use a separate brush only for this stage.
Pour some of the glue into a palette (I find ceramic is best for this) so that you can close the full bottle up as soon as possible after use
Apply a small amount of soap to the brush before introducing the brush to the adhesive, otherwise you’ll end up with your brush hairs glued permanently together really quickly
Follow the instructions on the bottle closely. In the example of the Polyvine, there are stated times to allow the glue to air dry and become tacky BEFORE even applying the gold. And then there’s a drying period after, before you can touch it or apply lacquer.
Wash the brush with more soap as soon as you can after you’ve made the line you want.
TOP TIP: As I found when I made my first Kintsugi print, make sure that the original work is 100% dry before you use glue and gold, otherwise this happens..
Step six – gilding!
Once the glue line is tacky (because you’ve followed the instructions, right? Then you need to take a sheet on gold leaf and apply it gold side down on the glued area, pressing firmly from the back.
As it’s a transfer, the gold should lift away from the sheet and adhere to the paper, where the glue is place.
Then, you’re going to want to press the gold to the paper, and this is where you’re going to use those important gloves.
TOP TIP: I find that using just one glove on my right hand makes me focus on what I’m doing and prevents me getting gold or glue all over the place.
And the last stage of the gold bit, is to brush away the excess. This is where you’re going to use your second brush – not the one you used for glue!!
Assuming that you’ve allowed the adhesive to tackify properly (new word, you heard it here first) then you can use the brush to scrub gently at the edge of the line. This will remove all tiny crumbs of gold and give you a really crisp line.
Again, as you’re going to have flecks of gold flying around at this point, you will need to be completely sure that everything else on the page which is not the line you’re trying to create, is completely dry. No wet ink, no spots of glue. There’s nothing more depressing than adding a smear of glue where you don’t want one. Trust me..;)
Step 7 (Final step) – Varnish/Lacquer
Having left the work to dry completely (and following the instructions on the bottle of adhesive), you can then varnish the line of gold leaf that you’ve applied. If like me you’re applying fine lines, you’ll want to use a small brush to make sure you control the line. You want to be lacquering ONLY the gold and not the rest of the paper, because it will really show up if you’re hanging in an exhibition.
Here I used the same brush as I’ve used for the adhesive. I don’t use soap this time, but I do make sure I’ve cleaned it thoroughly before and straight after use.
Then, more drying because you need to let the lacquer dry.
Hey, I never said this wasn’t tedious.
And there you go. Gold line complete.
This hand-finished edition, “Change” is on display in margate until 16th July.
DfL (Down from London) is a limited edition linoprint I created for a series of exhibitions in Margate in summer/autumn 2016.
It was a good test of my linoprint skills – which compared to the control I feel when I pick up a pen – are virtually non-existent.
Credit for the final result must go partially to advice from such sage experts as Martin Adams and Kirsten Schmidt (expert East London Printmakers) and Margate-based Nick Morely of Hello Print. Incidentally, if you want a superb book on linoprint for artists, you could do worse than grab a copy of Nick’s book.
As with all good things, I started with a drawing..
Please note the wooden spoon – turns out that’s the most important part of the whole process. It’s all about the pressure baby, especially when you’re hand-printing lino.
For this edition, as you can see, I used Jacksons Water-based ink. This is a lot easier to clean up after, but as I’ll cover in other posts, for some editions I use Caligo especially when printing by hand.
To cut the plate I used Pfeil tools. To be fair, they are the only ones I use or would consider – just so much control and such high quality. They’re pricey but 100% worth it – the best price I’ve found is at Jacksons.
I love the way plates look when they’re freshly inked. So much potential (but also potential for it to go wrong… 😮 )
Here’s what happens when you don’t use enough spoon… sob.
Here’s the first colour plate going on – with enough pressure! Thanks to my experts for the tips and I can confirm that the only way to hand print lino is essentially by applying pressure until you have worked up quite a sweat and creating one massive bicep. Maybe I shouldn’t have made this edition in the middle of a hot summer..
The first reveal of the second (black) plate… thank gawd I didn’t mess that bit up.
Edition of 10 completed and suspended – it’s always quite satisfying to see them strung across the studio.
And I got to show them off at the Viking Gallery in Cliftonville, Margate.
I’ve also made a series of greetings cards based on this work, which are available in my etsy store.