Saturday, October 31, 2009

Gold Leaf and Acrylic Paint

A recent email inquiry regarding gold leaf and acrylic paint just came to me, so I thought I would share the question and my response for anyone else using this cool combo. By the way, my book "Acrylic Revolution" has a full step-by-step of this technique, but my response here adds a few hints. (Click here to order the book if interested, or use this link

Your website popped up after I googled “acrylic paint over gold leaf”. I am using a similar technique to yours but with very different imagery. My technique: rigid panels primed with sandable gesso, sand gesso to eliminate wood grain, gold leaf size, gold or copper leafing, then as many as 30 layers of acrylic glazes. Finish with multiple layers of acrylic gloss varnish. Here’s my dilemma: I accidentally dinged a finished piece down to the gesso level and I was able to peel the entire painting off the support! So now I’m disturbed about the integrity of my finished pieces.

Have you encountered this problem? How have you resolved it? Thanks for any info you care to share and I like your work very much!

It sounds like you have an adhesion problem. But also, after you dinged the piece and were able to get a grip on the layers you pulled at it - so this can also create a problem. Sometimes layers can be stable in a painting, but if you get just the right grip and angle you can still pull them up. This doesn't necessarily mean the layers are not stable.

But, here are some things you can do to help adhesion at 2 crucial points: the first layer of acrylic that touches the substrate, and the first layer of acrylic that touches the metal leaf.

(1) I don't know whether your painting came off after the gesso or before, but here are some tips. When using a wood panel clean it with denatured alcohol to remove any grease. If the wood panel is very smooth lightly sand the surface to get a grit. Apply a thin layer of Golden's Gesso (or another brand that is high quality meant for acrylic adhesion). The cheaper gessoes are OK for oil, but not acrylic. Now apply anything else you want - multiple layers of gesso are fine, but I wouldn't water the gesso down too much (not more than 20% water).

(2) After you apply the leaf you need to apply a coat of something that will help the acrylic to adhere. In other words, acrylic will not adhere very well to metal without extra help. By using any clear glossy mineral spirit based acrylic in a layer between the metal leaf and acrylic you help adhesion. I like to use Golden's Archival Varnish in a spray, or their MSA Varnish (same thing in a can that you can brush apply).

Also, if you apply the same archival varnish over the finished painting at the end it will help with dings.

Acrylic paintings need to fully dry for 2 weeks before wrapping them up. This 2 week period is crucial for curing the layers and during this time the painting should not get below 50 degrees, and should have air circulating around it.

I hope this helps.
If you have any more questions you can find great advice by calling Golden at 1-800959-6543 and asking for the tech department.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Break Through to New Ideas

A friend of mine recently described a break-through experience she had. She was having a creative block and went to a well known artist/teacher for some help. The teacher gave her 10 small sheets of glass, about 8” x 10” and told her she had only one hour to complete a painting on each piece of glass during that time. After the hour was over, the teacher took out a hammer and told her to smash them all. After shattering the paintings she was then instructed to create something using the shattered pieces. This exercise had momentous results. First of all, creating many small paintings in a short specified time period gets your creative juices flowing, and you can work through many ideas quickly. By smashing the paintings, it creates a powerful ritual to let go of attachment. My friend did remark how difficult it was to destroy something she just made and liked. Then, by using the pieces to create something else she was creating something new from something destroyed, which shifts the painting process to a cycle rather than a linear process. This reminds me of something I like to use for myself and students in my workshops. I have an idea that I want to use for a painting. As a metaphor I think of this first idea as an “egg”. I use the initial idea to get something going on the canvas. After awhile I get to a point where I can feel a resistance happening. This is the time where the egg needs to be broken to make an omelet. In other words, I need to let go of the initial idea, by removing my reference material from sight, or letting myself paint over sections, or introduce something very new. It’s a point where I need to let the paintings start to have some say in the process, and by letting go of some of the control, not pushing so hard to get that end result I had in mind, I will most likely end up with something very new, maybe surprising, but most definitely more powerful than if I had forced the painting to continue in the same line of thought as in the beginning. I like to let the process change my mind. And in this way painting never ceases to be inspiring.