Step by Step

beginnings sketch and phots
I usually gild several glass panels at a time with transfer leaf. In this way I have more choice when matching a suitable gold panel to the image or subject matter. The image is just as important for the effectiveness of the final piece of work and the two are married with careful consideration.

For 'First Snow', seen left, a glass panel was chosen from my stock. I was particularly attracted by its unusual patterning, incorporating two sheets of gold leaf and a slightly bigger size of 8x12cm. The image I had in mind for it was from a photograph I had taken of my daughter, Eliana, age 2. It was her first experience of snow and the shot captured the moment she turned around, cold and fed up.
drawing onto glass
In preparation for sketching the photograph of Eliana, is printed in high definition on an A4 sheet of photo paper together with a smaller version, to help with scale. Once the sketch is finished it is placed onto a light box, the gilded glass panel placed on top and secured with tape. The outline of the sketch can then be traced through the gold using a fine needle tool or hard pencil. However, this cannot always be achieved, as the light does not penetrate the more dense areas of gold. Viewed through an angle poise magnifying glass, most of the drawing is done straight onto the gold, using the sketch and photographs as reference.

first snow
Drawing straight onto the gold using a fine needle tool on a black velour board surface The etched side of the gold is the 'wrong' side, as the image will be viewed through the glass. 

As the process suggests the gold is engraved, etched away and the details and shading can be built up using a combination of stippling and cross hatching. 

Once marks are made in the gold it is difficult to correct mistakes, although not entirely impossible. Gold leaf can be carefully reapplied to an area to cover a mistake, although, when working in such small detail it can be very risky. A 1mm spot of size covers an area of 5mm and if any grease residue is on the glass the gold will not adhere to the surface.

To work on the gilded glass panel it is placed on a black velour covered board. This prevents the glass panel from slipping when working on it and can be flipped over regularly to view the marks created through the glass, as it progresses towards the final image.
first snow stage two
Working on the outline and building up shaded areas using cross hatching and stippling Once happy with the final image, it is signed. i use my initials, 'CMR', always remembering to sign in reverse!

To seal and protect the gold leaf, as well as enhancing the design, oil based paint is applied to the entire glass panel, covering the gold. The colour of the paint only shows through where there are gaps in or around the gold. 

I prefer to use either red or black paint as it gives definition to the design and complements the gold.  The paint must be left to dry overnight and The finished picture will be revealed for the first time and may then be framed. a frame and An acid-free backing board is placed onto the painted back of the picture and sealed ready to display.
first snow finiahed piece
This particular medium, for me, is both challenging and enjoyable, with the potential to be developed in so many ways. 

Working with gold, prized for its age-old quality, unearths a primitive human desire for this treasure and has always been the perfect metal with which to make beautiful things. 

'First Snow' 8x12cm 22.5ct gold leaf