Thursday, March 5, 2009

St. Michael - further on

This is the next stage in the St. Michael icon (some of the previous stage in this post). The red stuff is bole. It goes wherever the gold leaf will be laid down. So for this, one can see the entire background and halo will be gold leaf.

Bole is a certain clay mixed with rabbit skin glue. You can also use fish glue. I'm not sure if water is added. I should know this by now, but I don't. Today we used bole that was already mixed, leftover stuff. The clay that goes into making the bole is a purified kind and it's used because it lays down flat.

To apply the bole to the board, you heat up the bole to between 100 and 150 F. To do this, you put the bole in a glass jar. You put the glass jar into a stone bowl that has hot water in it (obviously not so deep as to get water into the jar with the bole). You put the stone bowl, which has the hot water and glass jar of bole in it, into a larger plastic container. Into the larger plastic container you pour boiling water. One is to be careful with direct heat because you don't want the bole to reach too high a temperature, or else it will be useless forever after that. It will dry brittle.

This icon has around four layers so far. One can't let it dry too long before laying down the gold leaf. But this way, once we add two more layers, the present four layers will get sufficiently moistened for the gold leaf to adhere.

You breath on the bole just before you lay down pieces of gold leaf. Your warm breath opens up the adhesive stuff in the bole. I've heard that some use garlic juice. Obviously those people are rare, because garlic juice stinks like the fumes from hell.

And I like the word, bole. It's one of those English words that has this primal, universal connotation; for it is trees and clay.

1 comment:

cattiva said...

Very impressive work. I took an icon writing workshop using far less ceremonious methods - a cheater's course in iconography, if you will, using acrylics, sizing and varnish. Where are you taking lessons? I took mine in Niagara, ON under Phil Zimmerman. I'd be interested to compare the two methods, being a newcomer to art. Thanks!