Artist Benny Alba Demonstrates How to Combine Daniel Smith Luminescent™ Oils with Metallic Leaf
"The Window" combines my favorite media-regular oil paints, Daniel Smith Luminescent™ Oil Colors and Metallic Leaf. To begin a painting of this type, gesso the entire support two or three times. Then sketch the placement of the metal leaf on the canvas with vine charcoal.
Next, brush Quick Size onto the area intended for leafing, making sure to keep the surface horizontal. A lacquer with a slight yellow tone, Quick Size lets the gleam of the metal leaf show to its best advantage and dries to a hard surface, protecting the leaf from those who are seduced into touching it. I usually apply it with inexpensive, pointed Japanese sumi brushes for accuracy, but large areas need a wider brush. Expect the Quick Size to spread beyond your brush stroke even when applied thinly; keep a rag handy in case you need to wipe up drips as it can dry fast.
Once the size is tacky to the touch, apply (or "float") leaf by lifting it with a sumi brush barely moistened with Quick Size, then carefully placing it on the sized surface. I cut the leaf into small squares (using a gilder's knife for genuine gold leaf and sharp sewing scissors for composition and variegated leaf) for ease of application and to add textural interest.
To finish up the leafed areas, look over the canvas from different angles of light after drying. Return to accidentally skipped areas (the wet surface may fool your eye) by doing small patches of leaf. After 24 hours, apply a second coat of sizing to seal the areas that have leaf.
Now the painting begins, using both Original™ and Luminescent™ Oils. (Always avoid painting over or under metal leaf or the sizing-the paint will eventually crack or peel as the sizing is impenetrable.) For "The Window," I used Iridescent colors on the head and purple ruff of the Kachina and Interference colors for the translucent, veil-like stripes on the Mycenean female's dress. A dark underpainting is necessary for Interference colors to show to best effect. Allow the underpainting to dry thoroughly before applying Interference colors.
A painting such as "The Window" pivots around the qualities of the paint, with various areas being opaque, other veil-like or almost transparent. Metal leaf and LuminescentTM paints add dimension and visual interest to the piece as its appearance changes in different lighting conditions. I hope that as you work with them, you will find the combination of these materials as exciting as I do. Enjoy!
The Original Shiny Art Material: Metal Leaf
Metal leaf is quite different than metallic paint, giving a smoother, more highly reflective metallic effect.
Inspired by the many uses of gold in Byzantine icons, mosaics, and frescoes, I often include metal leaf in my art. I love the way its surface interacts kinetically with light, movement and the colors of the viewers' clothing.
Working with metal leaf is a challenge. It can look flat or imply depth. When reflecting light, the leafed areas appear bright, while at other times they appear dark. This makes for transitional difficulties with paint-an essentially flat surface regardless of painterly application. The combination of Luminescent™ paint and metal leaf allows a new and more subtle transition between the two materials, an aspect which has barely begun to be explored.
Gold leaf symbolically refers to previous art, history and wealth. Luminescent™ colors, alone or combined with metal leaf, create new meanings as well as new interest. There is a sense of enigma and unknown symbolism. The possibilities of combining leaf and Luminescent™ colors are endless and unprecedented, limited only by artists' imaginations.
Step 1 - Surface Prep
For oil-based works, gesso support surface two times. Here, I used black gesso. Then sketch on surface with charcoal or white pencil to decide where metallic leaf will be positioned. Thinly apply Quick Size using a soft brush with a sharp tip.
Step 2 - Metallic Leaf
"Float" small squares of metallic leaf onto wet area and seal the leaf after completely dry.
Step 3 - Apply Luminescents
Apply dark underpainting for the Interference colors using black gesso or dark paint. Paint on the canvas with Original™ and Luminescent™ colors. Apply Interference paint over dry under painting using brushes or rags.
About the Author
Descended from several generations of artists, Benny Alba lives and works in Oakland, California. Her artwork can be seen in more than a dozen museums and public collections, as well as at www.bennyalba.com.