Learning to Gild with Instacoll—Day 1!

Sharon Thomas Blog 0 Comments

I’m always slow getting started when I want to learn a new skill. I have to get my head ready…my studio has to be (relatively!) clean and neat. Check! I have to have the laundry relatively caught up (working on that!) I have to have a cuppa coffee within easy reach.  Check! I have to be alone. Check! So here I am, ready enough! Today’s the day! I’ve watched Harvest Crittendon’s instructional video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7gPKa0QKIU:) twice. I’ve had my materials for some time now for my upcoming project:  the Lord’s Prayer in Latin on genuine parchment, which is animal skin.  I have a beautiful piece of sheepskin, and I will use iron gall ink with gouache (opaque watercolor) and 23 K patent gold gilding to design a piece harkening back to medieval times….that’s my goal!

I’ve chosen to use Instacoll instead of gesso as the base for the gold to adhere to. I’ll let you know how it comes along.

Here are the materials I’ll be using:  Kölner Instacoll System Base, distilled water, Old World Ink (iron gall ink), 23 K patent gold from Wehrung & Billmeier Co., an old crystal inkwell that I’m using for a dappen dish, and a book called The Bible of Illuminated Letters by Margaret Morgan. I am going to do my first gilding on Arches 140# hot press watercolor paper…pics of two 4 X 6 inch pieces are shown in the foreground.  Not starting first on sheepskin, that’s for sure!  Practice on THAT comes later!


I’m following Harvest Crittendon’s instructions, so you can watch the video at the link posted above.  First, I’ve drawn several 1/2″ squares on the watercolor paper. I dispensed 50 drops of Instacoll into my dappen dish and then diluted that with 7 drops of distilled water.  I stirred it gently with the sharp end of a palette knife.  NEVER shake the Instacoll….it will introduce bubbles and you don’t want bubbles.

You don’t want to brush on the Instacoll…It will be a rough and uneven base for your gold if you do.  You want to float the Instacoll on…put a drop inside the square and move it around with the brush.  Play with the drop…move it into the corner, and when your brush is dry, get another drop of Instacoll and continue dropping liquid into liquid and moving it around until the square is filled. Let it dry for 30-45 minutes.  I’m going to eat lunch!

Okay…back from lunch….I tentatively lifted the patent gold sheet on its tissue paper square, turned it over onto the tacky Instacolled square, and rubbed the tissue paper side smoothly on with a cotton ball.  Then I lifted off the tissue paper, and the gold of course stuck to the Instacoll!   Here’s the result– finished, burnished gold square in the middle, another Instacoll square drying on the right:

After this, I did two more squares to test drying time.  I let one dry 30 minutes, and the next I let dry 15 minutes.  I thought it was dry, but it wasn’t, and it totally messed up…the gold did not adhere in the middle.  So I will go with the longer drying time.  I followed Harvest Crittendon’s advice and burnished it with the side of a Q-tip.  It worked very well!  Nice and shiny.  On to another piece I need to start today.  I plan to work more on gilding tomorrow!

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