Thursday, 12 December 2013

Prototype Altarpiece

I have started a series of pieces that puts WW1 imagery within Renaissance-style altar panels.  One of these will be 48 inches x 24 inches, which will be a big undertaking so I thought that I ought to make a prototype.  This would enable me to make all the mistakes and learn from them before I tackle the big piece.  It is just 12 inches x 24 inches

First I had to make the carcass:

I primed the central panel and applied acrylic transfers to it before starting the carcass, so in this view it is masked off with paper.  The construction is quite crude, with the really rough bits improved with home-made plastic wood. Then I gave the carcass two coats of traditional gesso sottile (rabbit skin glue and whitening), to provide a surface that I could sand and polish before gilding:

After this had dried I applied a reddish acrylic 'bole' - ie something the colour of the real bole used for water-gilding, as a ground for the gilding.  I then applied clear gilder's size' left to dry for two hours, followed by the gold leaf.  I am using imitation leaf as it is thicker than the real thing and much easier to handle.  This picture shows the process at about the halfway stage:

After all the gold leaf was on, I could then strip away the masking to reveal the images already applied.  I was not happy with the composition and so cut out some images and added others.  I also distressed and glazed the gilding and added home-made rottenstone to the crevices, to age the piece.  From here I will start applying paint and maybe a few more images.

I have learned a lot and will no doubt learn more as I finish the piece.  Then I can get on with fabricating the bigger 'production model' for the Armed Forces Art Society's contemporary show next year.


  1. Very interesting project, the prototype is great piece of art on its own, I look forward to seeing the larger construct, I will stay tuned. Thanks for sharing your work.

    1. Thanks Jim - I need the encouragement!