Big Ben Painting – Experiments with gold leaf

©2016 - Cathy Read - Big Ben (Working title) Work in Progress detail clock-face - Watercolour gold leaf and Acrylic Ink - 75 x 55 cm

Coming around to a Big Ben Painting took me a while.

Almost as soon as I started the London paintings, people have asked me about Big Ben. I’ve been shying away from it. Back in April I was running a workshop and one of the students had brought in some gold leaf (amongst other things) to use on her work. I was intrigued by her results and she gave me a sheet so I could try it out. The trouble with only having a small quantity of something, is you hold back from using it until you get the right project.
Which is exactly what I did. Then I had an idea. I’d finally got the pictures of Big Ben to work from, and if ever there was a gilded facade that could use gold leaf, this was it.

I set about the painting as usual.
Prep drawing went well.

©2016 - Cathy Read - Big Ben (Working title) Work in Progress detail - Graphite - 75 x 55 cm
©2016 – Cathy Read – Big Ben (Working title) Work in Progress detail – Graphite – 75 x 55 cm

Painting went well.

©2016 - Cathy Read - Big Ben (Working title) Work in progress Watercolour - 75 x 55 cm
©2016 – Cathy Read – Big Ben (Working title) Work in progress Watercolour – 75 x 55 cm

Then I started with the inks and gold leaf. I tore it up into smaller pieces and laid it around the clock face, trying not to cover the hands. It sat there looking square, lifeless and uninspiring, despite it’s shine.

I’ve learnt that sometimes things look awful during the creative process but turn out fine when all the stages have been completed. This time, I just had to trust it would work.

©2016 - Cathy Read - Big Ben (Working title) Work in Progress detail - Watercolour, acrylic ink and gold leaf - 75 x 55 cm
©2016 – Cathy Read – Big Ben (Working title) Work in Progress detail – Watercolour, acrylic ink and gold leaf – 75 x 55 cm

I was scheduled to do a workshop, and decided to do the “Grand Reveal” as part of the demonstration. I find it helps to have a big painting somewhere in a workshop and, at 55x76cm, I think this qualifies. Not that I wanted to add anymore suspense to the situation, you understand.
The time for the reveal came.
I started removing the masking but the gold leaf seemed to be coming off as well.
There was a moment of panic!
Fortunately after a bit of quick thinking, I changed technique and continued very slowly. Gradually the gold took on the shape of the unmasked area and looked more how I’d planned.

©2016 - Cathy Read - Big Ben (Working title) Work in Progress detail clock-face - Watercolour gold leaf and Acrylic Ink - 75 x 55 cm
©2016 – Cathy Read – Big Ben (Working title) Work in Progress detail clock-face – Watercolour gold leaf and Acrylic Ink – 75 x 55 cm

Finally, I got this!

©2016 - Cathy Read - Big Ben (Working title) Watercolour, acrylic ink and gold leaf - 75 x 55 cm -£1000
©2016 – Cathy Read – Big Ben (Working title) Watercolour, acrylic ink and gold leaf – 75 x 55 cm -£1000

I think it turned out well, how say you?

I’ve decided to call it London Icons and it’s available for sale through my shop.

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