In this exercise, I am going to be oil gilding some localised areas of a picture frame. Gilding does not have to encompass an entire piece of work. In fact, just a few gilded areas can really brighten up an object and needn’t be expensive.
For this exercise, you will need the following equipment:
Gilders tip (preferably squirrel hair)
3 hour gilders size (oil)
A book of gold leaf
An object with small areas of decoration to highlight.
A pounce bag
This picture frame is an ideal unit to work on. It is made from resin and has a lovely delicate feel to the decoration. What I plan to do is to isolate and gild some of the daisies, whilst leaving the rest as white. This is a relatively small piece and will not take too much time to size and gild. Therefore, it can be completed as one single piece. For this unit, I am using a 4-hour size.
Even though the frame is clean and free from grease, gold leaf will still stick to the surface of anything it touches unless a resist is put upon it, so before I start, I am going to lightly dust the working surface with a pounce bag. This will coat all the frame with a very fine layer of gilders whiting and prevent the gold from sticking where I do not want it. I have even put a coat over the glass as the gold will stick here too!
The next stage is to apply oil size to the areas where I wish to place the gold. For this I am using a small artists brush. The leaves of the daisies are very delicate and require a steady hand and accurate placement of the size. It can sometimes help to have the piece angled slightly towards you, especially when gilding larger pieces where your arms are likely to get tired.
I have started in the bottom left corner and worked my way around the frame, picking out daisies that are relatively even spaced. However, in this case I have also sized two together occasionally to prevent it looking too orderly. By working in a logical way around the frame when it comes to leaf application, I will repeat the same order, ensuring that the gold is applied at approximately the same time all around the frame and will have the same kind of finish, as areas with wetter size will have a more matte finish.
Once the oil size has reached sufficient tackiness, it is time to start applying the gold leaf. As started, I start in the same location as where I started the size application. Because of the small nature of the daisies, I am cutting the gold squares into quarters. Using a thin squirrel tip, I pick up a quarter of the leaf and lightly place it upon the surface of the size.
Once a piece of gold leaf has been applied upon the size, in this case I am going to apply another piece directly on top of the previous layer. This second layer is then manipulated with a good quality (I use sable) artist brush to push the gold lightly around. Where the gold is sitting upon the previous layer, it will slide around until it finds some uncovered size and will then stick. It is important not to brush over any of the bare areas. Since these have been pounced over to prevent the gold sticking, your brush may pick up particles of whiting and deposit them onto the size, thereby satisfying the tack and preventing gold going where you want it too
I now work my way around the frame, in the same order as it was sized. It is not worth trying to salvage any of the pieces that fall onto the glass or around because they will inevitably introduce the resist on the surface. At all times, care must be taken to prevent either the gilders tip or the sable used for pushing the gold around from coming in contact with the size, as this will make the brush end stick and cause a lot of aggravation.
If there are any areas that have been missed with the size, or have been contaminated with whiting to prevent the gold from sticking, they can be faulted now. Re size those areas a little larger than the fault and repeat the processes on these areas until satisfactory. Personally, I think a little fault here and there in the finished piece gives it a handmade and natural quality and am inclined to leave them there.
Once the gold leaf has been applied to the entire surface, just closely check that all areas have been covered. The piece is then left over night for the size to dry. The next day, a soft gilders mop is then used to lightly go over the surface and remove all the residual gold and gilders whiting and to generally tidy up the piece. Being pure gold, the surface will not need to be sealed.