Step by Step: Merg­ing hu­man ges­ture with gold leaf

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1 Ges­ture sketches

I start all my im­ages with emo­tion-based thumb­nails in my sketch book. Th­ese are not beau­ti­ful or im­pres­sive draw­ings; rather, I see them as use­ful think­ing tools driven by the feel­ing I want to con­vey. You can see in this pre­lim­i­nary sketch that I’m work­ing out the emo­tion and the ges­tures be­tween the fig­ures. The un­usual mo­ment as their tor­sos press to­gether and the po­si­tion of the hands is very im­por­tant.

2 Preparing the can­vas

I take two 30x48-inch stretched can­vases, sand them down, coat them with gesso and then carry out wet sand­ing be­tween five or six lay­ers of gesso. I want the sur­face to be vel­vety and smooth with very lit­tle “tooth” of the can­vas left. In most cases I’ll free­hand my draw­ing on to the can­vas (al­though I’ll some­times use a pro­jec­tor). I draw with a large, wood­less graphite pen­cil and a brush with pow­dered graphite and wa­ter.

3 Fin­ish­ing touches

I usu­ally use gold leaf in neg­a­tive spa­ces and large graphic ar­eas. Then I glaze the piece with Galkyd and fin­ish it in oil paint. The fi­nal piece is given a coat of Gam­var to pro­tect it. I pre­fer sim­ple fram­ing for my work th­ese days, be­cause or­nate frames are a dis­trac­tion and don’t al­low for the work to be seen in its own right. I use painted black slats: the most ba­sic fin­ish fram­ing. I love its clean pre­sen­ta­tion.

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