Step by Step: Merging human gesture with gold leaf
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.