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Adventures in Gold Leaf

This week I learned an important lesson: GOLD LEAF WILL NOT ADHERE TO GESSO. For non-artists, gesso is a mixture of chalk, pigment and binder. It's usually applied to a surface before that surface is painted.

For some reason, I have been applying gold leaf for ages and only just now figured this out. I incorrectly thought all this time that painting on laquer or paint before adding sizing (the glue that the gold leaf sticks to) was merely an aesthetic choice to add color behind the leaf whenever holidays (gaps in the gold leaf) showed up.

Whenever I tried to apply my leaf directly to the gesso, nothing happened. The glue was not sticky. I used my brush to rub the leaf onto the surface and it began to flake into a million tiny pieces, fluttering to the floor. I was so frustrated. I thought maybe the room was too cold, or maybe the glue had been contaminated. Finally I contacted a friend.

Friend: lets see, well I use the speedball too

do you paint the red color underneath first?

I just use a regular red acrylic paint

so the gesso won't absorb

other than that, it's gotta be your batch or the cold

we spilled speedball size on our dining room table once

and our table clothes stuck to that spot for years

. . .

Me: Why would it stick to paint but not gesso?

Friend: Gesso could be absorbing too much as it is pourous

the paint isn't as porous

a fairly solid layer of paint will keep the gesso from aborbing things

File this under: THE MORE YOU KNOW

Here is a picture of my icon with the sizing applied to the gesso (the white area in the picture):


And here it is correctly painted and gold leafed with the edges painted and sealed up and a crown punched on top of the lady's head:


Isn't she pretty? My daughter thinks it's hers, so maybe I'll have to make a different duckie for her later since I hope this pair gets scooped up at the show.

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