Venetian Blue – SOLD


Venetian Blue Original Colourised goldpoint in 24K gold, silver, 24K gold leaf, watercolour, acrylic and carbon on rag art paper 60cm x 30cm – SOLD

Original metalpoint drawing by ARC Living Master Gordon Hanley.

Gordon’s inspiration: “Using traditional techniques used in the mask shops in Venice I created the Papiermâché mask. The model is Penny. Venetian Blue represents an important development in colourised metalpoints.  Metalpoints have been colourised by artists previously, but the images are very washed out and do not resemble coloured photographs, let alone in combination with gold leaf. The techniques used are far from simple and the timings and order of application are critical. Although it was conceived from the outset as a coloured image, it began life as a monochrome drawing in 24K gold and pure silver on paper. At this stage, it would best be described as a metalpoint drawing that looked like a washed-out black and white photograph of the finished artwork.

The colourisation was commenced using a diluted watercolour base. The eyes were completed first: I find that if a mistake is going to be made, it is likely to happen in the most technically challenging parts of the drawing, so if I get a serious error, it is preferable that it happens early in the piece rather than 200 hours of intense work later. The skin tones were next, followed by the feathers. As it turned out, it was the simpler parts that proved the most difficult (Murphy’s Law). I discovered that watercolour tends to sit on the surface of the Metalpoint ground, as opposed to the uncoated watercolour paper which is partially absorbent. The effect is like trying to paint on glass. First coat is usually fine, but subsequent coats simply remove the first coat and blending is impossible. That means colour layers have to be applied in one go, perfectly, without error. This in turn made smooth skin tones very difficult to achieve, along with the intense blue feathers, both of which I would usually have employed a layering technique.

Carbon was added to enhance the very dark areas, and I then worked over the entire sheet with another layer of 24K gold metal, carefully avoiding the areas of pure white. The sheets of gold leaf were added next. These were mainly 24K, but 22k gold leaf was also used – about 18 – 20 sheets in total. Most of the gold that you see are the sheets of 24K gold leaf which were toned and shaded in acrylic glaze to render the 3-D effect present in the underlying drawing. This glaze is restricted to the gold leaf. Once applied, it is impossible to apply any gold or silver metal, so it can only be used on the areas of gold leaf. 22k gold leaf is lighter and brighter than 24K gold and was used in places where I wanted to emphasise brighter light, mainly on the right-hand side of the picture. The white you see in the eyes and spotted guinea fowl feathers is gouache blended with watercolour. Again, there is only one chance to get it right because layering is impossible.

It took many weeks to complete with an estimated easel time exceeding 200 hours. Hopefully I have achieved the effect I was striving for: an artwork of startling realism, visually arresting, drawn in precious metals enhanced with intense colour balanced with the rich opulence of pure gold. It can honestly be stated that there is nothing in the entire history of art that is anything like these artworks – largely because so few artists would be silly enough to invest such an inordinate amount of time, at such extreme risk of failure!”


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