Thursday, December 27, 2012

Gilding: Liquitex Acrylic Gesso

I recently had a conversation with with someone regarding the use of modern Liquitex Acrylic Gesso as a gilding base. To be honest it's not something I'd ever contemplated since I jumped straight in with things like fish glue, garlic, glair and other period options. However, the questions regarding it's use do intrigue me though because although we strive to direct people in a period direction, they're not always ready to take the leap regardless of how easy to learn some of these techniques are.

See my Gilding: Mediums, Mordants & Techniques post for my personal thoughts of the various mordants I've experimented with.

Since I've never used the Liquitex Acrylic Gesso, I had to first educate myself on what it's used for. The Liquitex website says that it "provides the perfect tooth and adhesion to a wide variety of surfaces such as canvas, paper and wood" and is an "excellent base coat primer for many applications for example murals". For a more thorough description of modern acrylic gesso check out this Acrylic Paint Review page. What I get from this is that modern acrylic gesso's you seen in art supply stores are primer's, they seal the surface (paper, canvas etc...) with a non-porous layer that can then be painted on.

Now, for gilding we need a sticky component for the gold to adhere to and I'm assuming that the modern acrylic gesso's don't have this. A little more Google-Fu turns up two very similar recipes (Mistress Caitlin FitzHenry's and Madame Elizabeth de Nevell's), both of which combine the following components to create a gilding base:

  • ~ 4 parts acrylic gesso.
  • ~ 5 parts gloss varnish medium.
  • ~ 1 part sugar-water
  • Colour to tint.
I haven't tried these recipes yet so can't comment on how they work up, or how easy they are to use, although I will have to try it myself at some point. If you're so inclined I strongly suggest that you visit the linked recipe pages for full instructions, however please remember that there are more period alternatives that are readily available and just as easy to use. I always prefer to nudge people in a period direction but understand that, for a variety of reasons, others may prefer modern alternatives.

Keep an eye on this post for further updates once I've played with these recipes myself.