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The Sparkling Seduction of Silver

From the glittering icons of the Byzantine style and the stunning folding screens of the Kano school in Japan to the work of Austrian artist Gustav Klimt, this approach to art has captivated me. I have been experimenting with gold and silver leaf for a few years now with mixed results. This past May, I had the privilege to study with one of my favorite contemporary painters, Brad Kunkle, who uses gilding as an integral part of his work. Because I intend to make gold and silver leaf significant features of my own work, the workshop was timely and pertinent. The examples here don't follow Brad's methods exactly, but they demonstrate the first three steps I took toward unraveling the mysteries of combining oil paint and gilding.

To begin, I used a gesso board that I had gilded with silver leaf some months ago. My first step was to decide on a subject and make an accurate drawing of the contours and main features. Then, using raw umber and a #2 round brush, I did a simple outline drawing. Next, I laid in the main values as an underpainting still using only raw umber. The texture in the hair was achieved with a flat brush and a fan brush. I left it dry overnight.

During the next session, I added gingko leaves in raw umber on the left and in the hair ornament on the right. You can see that I have refined the values in the kimono. I did the same on the face, however this photo is a combination of steps. Allowing the paint to dry overnight, I began to work the contours of the face using a grisaille palette, as you can see here. Stay tuned for more progress as I find my way around combining oil paint and gilding.


Fun with Gold Leaf at the Naperville Art League

If you would like to learn a simple version of gilding without oil paint, I am offering a class at the Naperville Art League August 19 and 26, 10am-1pm (2 Saturdays). Students will create their own composition using Klimt-inspired shapes and/or stencils that I will supply. Register at:

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