I have had a lot of response come in about the use of 24 karat gold and sterling silver in my work recently. Unfortunately, because of the volume of questions, I have been unable to answer them individually. Hopefully this answers any curiosities people may have about the subject.
What do you mean when one of your paintings is labelled “with sterling silver and/or 24 Kt gold?”
Basically, it is ground sterling silver (or gold) into a fine powder to form a ‘pigment’. It is then mixed with a binder, gum arabic like usual watercolors are, and dried to form a tablet cake (so technically this would be watercolor). When needed, the tablet is wet to reconstitute the silver paint, and then can be used as paint in art. Used this way it is often called shell gold or shell silver – when used in earlier times, the metal paint was poured into a small shell to be used as a paint dish, thus the name.
Is this something new?
Not really. Pure silver and gold have been used in illuminated manuscript miniatures for centuries. Personally, I find these works of art fascinating, and as such they have found a place of influence on my work. I love the added zest a hint of silver or gold adds to a piece, as well as how it carries on a tradition that has such a rich history.
How long have you been using this in your painting?
I started around 2006-2007. It was an experiment in a selection of pieces at that point after running across many illuminated manuscripts that inspired me. More recently, as I have gotten more familiar with it’s use, I’ve included the gold and silver in my work more regularly.
How is it used in your painting?
I like to be delicate with it. I might accent areas, edges, or glaze – it truly depends on the work and where I want to lead the observer’s eye through that particular painting. Sometimes the shimmer is picked up in a scan of the original, sometimes not – so it may not be visible to those only viewing an image online or in print. As was the case in the miniatures of illuminated manuscripts, if shell gold (or silver for that matter) is overused it could spoil the picture in the final stages, and I find it is the same using it with more modern works.
Do you use gold leaf in your paintings too?
At this point I haven’t. I don’t rule out the possibility in the future, but for now I am focusing my work on softness and/or subtle hues for the most part. Being that large areas of gold would have a strong presence in a painting, I have not pursued that medium.
Do you use Silver Point, etc in your work?
No, at this time I have not. I prefer light graphite or drawing with paint.
Some links that may be of interest on the topic: