Friday, October 15, 2010

Gold Leaf versus Gold Paint

Gold Halo, amber and pewter on gold crown, metallic under painting.

In my quest to explore the power of sacred figures from world religions in my art, I often enhance my paintings with precious metals in the style of Greek and Hindu icons. Applying precious metals and stones directly to paintings of saints and goddesses has a long tradition back to ancient Egypt. As a modern painter I have access to a large variety of gold and metal leafs and paints. When composing a picture I might use only leafs or include metallic paints as well. I have included below links to the art supplies I use with an amazon affiliate program.

I most always use gold or metal leafs for halos and auras. Nothing short of diamonds outshines a 23kt Gold Halo. I don't see the point of using metallic paints instead, they cannot be burnished for greater shine, and the mica used to make the paints glitters rather than shining.

Smaller details on a painting like lettering or patterns on a dress are harder to acheive with gold leaf, and metallic paints make a good stand in. I have utilized shell gold (flakes of gold suspended in Gum Arabic) for this, and I have found it isn't opaque enough for some of the effects I seek. Metallic paints don't have as much shine and power as metal leafs, and sometimes I prefer the lower sheen of mica as I don't want the clothing to upstage a halos focus on the face.

Gold Halo, silver wings, metallic paint highlights in hair and pearlescent crown.

Speaking of halo's framing the face, sometimes the dullness of hair painted with regular paints interrupts that focus.  I have tried an under-painting of copper paint for red and brown hair and gold paints under blond hair to good effect as a smooth transition between the halo and the face on the heads of saints. Truly, if a saints head shown that much light with a halo, the hair would reflect some of that metallic color. Alternatively a few strands of hair lined with metallic paint or shell gold enhances the transition to the faces.

The gold in the lower half of this picture points they eye up to the main figures.

The modern sensibilities for composition conflict with the sense of space in medieval iconography. I have found that perfectly good paintings don't balance when the only bling in the painting is the halo. Picking out details elsewhere in the picture with metallic paints satisfies the antique and modern needs of a sacred subject.

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