January 21, 2021:
The outlines have been restored, and halos and inscriptions added onto the gold. I could then add the first coat of sealer on all gold surfaces which will help to protect while I continue painting. It's not 100% protection until I get the final coats of varnish done for the icon overall, but it helps protects against scuff marks on the leaf. I will be restoring the scuffing on the edges of the images as I continue.
The inscriptions are the tradition Greek MP OY (Mother of God) for Mary, but intread of using W.O.N for Christ, I used another variation which says the same thing (I AM). The cruciform in Christ's halo didn't allow for the typical usage within.
January 20, 2021:
Progress has been slowed by my computer dying after a few attempts to rescue it and once we entered the Christmas period, the focus became our family Christmas; tree, some baking and Christmas Dinner.
But following the New Year, it was back in the studio. The first thing was to set a completion date. With that is the reality of what still needs to be done. The key eater of time is the gilding process, with all its days of drying and setting times, and once completed, the 3 to 4 days for the icon to fully dry and set from its final varnish.
I'll skip over the numerous edits on the icon since December 13th, as they are difference which only I will note and not obvious to anyone else. So I'll quickly touch upon the steps in recent weeks.
Now that the gold size coat had fully dried and cured, it was time to do the critical sanding of the size with both a 520 and 1200 grit sandpaper. It's a hard process for the fingers, but this can only be done by hand (no electric sanders) as it needs care around the painted image, and it's all about touch (feeling the surface). Naturally, the edges of the image will get some scuffing, which is why this process waits until the icon is approximately 2|3 done, but before any of the final stage of writing the image can be done.
One quick added note: Why do I do this fully dried layer of gold size? It provides a hard surface for the gold leaf, enhancing its metallic finish.
Once the sanded surfaces are completed, you need to go over them with a tack cloth to remove any grit and debrit, which would greatly affect the gold leafing. That's where feeling the surface with your fingers is critical. You keep cleaning and running your fingers on all surfaces until you are satisfied.
And then comes the throbbing finger tips and nail bed edges which have separated somewhat from the finger, Pressure bandaging helps and helps against infection.
Now, as you have seen in my other journals, comes the task of assembling a sheltered work station. It is essential to protect the next gold size while it sets to tack in 3.5 to 4 hours (from floating lint, cat hair, etc.). It ineviatbly becomes a sauna because of the inclosure, but was an added benefit with the colder winter weather which can greatly affect the drying gold size. In my small space, the working conditions within the shelter are cramped. Also, to protect the surafce from drops of sweat, I always wear a head band.
When you approach the tack time, you occationally do a finger knuckle test. When ready, it will feel sticky with no hint of wetness. You cannot rush this because if you do, you will have disastrous results, and have to start all over again.
As I had scheduled this process, I had to do some quick rescheduling as a Zoom interview with the National Catholic Register came into play for Tuesday, January 19th, and I didn't want the plastic structure in place. So I put in a 12 hour day on January 17th, giving me time to clear the structure and very carefully set the icon on its easel. You cannot touch the gold until it is fully set and sealed.
The following is a quick shot of the icon on its easle, in time for the interview.
You will see the scuffed edges on the image next to gold leafing. I've done the initial lifting of any loose leafing and a light burnish of the new leaf with a soft sable brush, with very little pressure to avoid scratching the leaf. Once the leaf has fully set, (and after the interview), the next very delicate step needs to be done before I can seal the gold leaf; restoring those scuffed edges and reset the outlines. The halos and inscriptions then have to be done as they are done directly onto the gold (the paint adheres to the gold), and become sealed with the gold ( the first coat of varnish on the gold surfaces only). I have remnants of fleece to lay on the unsealed gold for protection while I work. Other note: I also cover any finger nails that may come in contact with the surface. The bandaids protect against nicking the gold leaf.
December 13, 2020:
Once all 3 icons were inked in, the process of editing and starting test base colours begins. I wanted to get an initial start on all 3 icons even though I only have easels to do 2 at a time, and the Madonna and Child needs to be completed first. But this way, at least the St. Paul icons are started.
The 2 St. Paul icons are basically copies of the original I wrote for St. Paul's Church in Vancouver Downtown Eastside, but with instructions that I can make changes as I go.
The Coast Salish themed icon of the Madonna & Child is a new design, commisioned for the Chapel in St. Thomas Aquinas Regional High School in North Vancouver, BC. With it comes the research, in assuring that the imagery is true within the eyes of the Coast Salish People while also being true the theological truth of the God-Bearer (Theotokos) and the Inarcnation, and of course, prayer. I always trust that the Spirit and Prototypes will guide the way.
You will note a change from the inked in icon, in that the braids have been edited to Mary's hair now being loose. Online research is always iffy because images are most often generically tagged 'North American Indian' or mislabelled as Coast Salish. I happened across a film which was set in a period Haida coastal setting. It presented true garments and how the hair was worn. Not a braid in sight. So I tried a few options with loose hair, and settled with Mary having pulled her hair back from the side closest to the Christchild.
It would have been nice to have had this icon done in time for Christmas, but it will be the Nativity set for my studio & home for our Christmas. Much to be done.
December 13, 2020:
My computer is still in the repair shop and I'm really hoping that it can be saved. In the meantime, I am trying to update info here on a borrowed PC laptop and trying to sort how to get images off my iPhone...
December 4: 2020:
The next step was to ink in all three of the transferred images. Inking is to paint the carbon paper lines with a acrylic paint to help define the reference lines and avoid smudging the carbon.
The 3 icon panels having been inked in. Note that the center panel is in fact the same size as the St. Paul panel to the left. It's the perspective of it being lower and further back.
November 27, 2020:
I've been plagued with laptop crashes and failed reboots, so my entries are behind schedule. I have indeed completed the construction and gesso preparation of all 3 panels, and created the design templates in actual scale for transfer onto each board.
I've also inked in the designs on each of the 3 panels, after doing one last sanding with a fine gry paper.
November 11, 2020:
Having completed the two commissioned totem paintings, I am back to some commissioned Icons.
The required icons are:
* Coast Salish Mary & ChristChild for the St. Thomas Aquinas High School Chapel, North Vancouver BC. 24"x28"
* 2 copies based on the Coast Salish St. Paul icon which was written for St. Paul's Church in Downtown Eastside, Vancouver BC. They will be gifted by the commissioner to 2 other churches.
* 1 copy based on the Coast Salish St. Joseph with Christ icon which will be gifted by the commissioner to a Vancouver Catholic School.
With the cold weather setting in, I need to get the panels prepared for the first 3 icons, which keep me busy for the next few months.
I've begun constructing and preparing the panels, starting with the one for St. Thomas Aquinas High School. It is the more complex of the 3 as it has a surface framing adding with the inset image. The other icons will all be flat as with the originals.
When people inquire about the cost of hand written icons, they are often surprised, not realizing the time, and labour, design and materials/paint costs. The STA icon will have a 23K gold background as with the series of icons already in the Chapel.