Sunday, May 21, 2017

"Listening to Moonlight Sonata" Adding a gilded effect on top of pastel.

"Listening to Moonlight Sonata"  11 x 14" Pastel on sanded paper
I have been playing around with various types of reflective gilded effects on my drawing for about a year now.  The first time I saw a painting with added gilding was a painting by Klimt.  About a year ago I saw several very large paintings by Kahinde Wiley that had gold leaf added.  I doubt that I am the first to attempt it over a dry medium, but I wanted to give it a shot.

It turned out that this was easier said than done.  First I tried the traditional method of using adhesive then rubbing the gold leaf into it. (Mona Lisa brand of gold leaf) Of course, as expected the adhesive did not stick to the dust of the pastel.  I tried using rubbing alcohol over the areas that I wanted to glue, letting it dry then adding the adhesive followed with rubbing on the gold leaf, but that was nothing short of a disaster.  Then I tried cutting out the gold leave with scissors and using a clear glue.  Nope, the gold leaf crumples up into a little ball once it is removed from the backing no matter how careful I was.

So, the next step was to try liquid gilding.  It actually has little specks of gold in it. (Martha Stewart Liquid gilding)  It is very bright and sort of orangy looking.  After I applied it to the pastel the edges of the paint sort of oozed into the dust.  Plus, I knew that if I did not varnish the liquid gold that it would eventually tarnish. Perhaps I could add the varnish with a fine brush later, but I was not convinced that it was going to be archival since it was not water based.

Then, one day as I was teaching one of my beginning painting workshops and I had the students add gold acrylic paint to sparkle up a simple canvas.  hmmmmm

I had put this drawing of Bandon into my marinating pile.  (I let it sit out of site for a while then pull it back out instead of throwing directly into the trash.  Sometimes I can save it, sometimes not.) I poured a small amount of the gold liquitex paint and thinned it out just a tad with water. If it was too thick it just sort of rolled over the dust of the pastel.  I used a small but stiff liner to apply it to the pastel.  I mostly used small dots and a few thin lines since I did not want this to turn into a mixed media project.  I had to rinse my brush often since the pastel stuck to the brush and created this sort of toothpastey like result with my paint, but I kept my patience and plodded on.

The end result was very pleasing.  I also know that since it is just acrylic, which is basically plastic, it would last as long as the drawing itself with out causing any damage to my work.  I am glad that I did not throw this little drawing of my handsome son in law into the trash.  All he needed was a little bling.

My inspiration for this piece is a well known movement by Beethoven called Moonlight Sonata.  You can listen to it here at  I wanted to convey the somber yet soft melody with the use of blue tones in both the flat background and the figure's face.  Although Moths are nocturnal, they are drawn to the light. It seemed appropriate to draw him surrounded by moths and staring off to the side as if he is contemplating his life. The background itself reminded me of an old wall paper with a simple floral pattern on it.  I drew the background with a vertical texture,  hoping to add a feeling of rain, or perhaps the shafts of moonlight.  The gold added a warm spark that changes as you walk around it when the gold catches the light.

I played this on the piano obsessively as a kid.  It is one of the few things that I can still play, but I no longer have it memorized. When I hear it I remember how it used to play it as if I was very sad.

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