Friday, June 26, 2015

I Heart Pollyanna

The reason there has been radio silence on this blog for the past few days is that my house was burglarized on Tuesday.  First, we are fine -- I am fine, Truman is fine, Dog End is mostly fine though in need of a new back door.

That piece of plywood is covering a window that is old with loose fittings.  Sometime during the day on Tuesday, while Truman was at daycare and I was at work (having taken the car, which I rarely do...yay), an observant burglar noticed that the top half of the window had slid down.  It was wide open.  I normally have a cover over the top of the window, so it may have been open for some time without my noticing.  Even the nice police officer who checked out my home went through the door twice before noticing.  Anyway, they got in easily (what they call a "crime of opportunity"), grabbed the laptop off the coffee table, and from the hall closets they grabbed a much older laptop and two old cameras.  Luckily, I had my newer camera with me.

So this was disturbing to return home to, but I am a huge fan of optimism and positive thinking (I own a DVD of the classic Hayley Mills film, Pollyanna, an all-time fave).  Nothing was very valuable, Truman was not home at the time, and I wound up having lovely catch-up chats with many of my neighbors.  While my deductible on the home insurance was $1000, the estimated replacement cost for the four stolen items came to $1800, and my insurer has already cut a check to me for that $800.  Plus they will replace the door (with a solid one!).  I bought a new laptop for $500, have no interest in replacing the other 3, old items, and am now $300 in the black.  Yay!

Also, sometime Tuesday night/early Weds, the Seattle PD busted the ringleaders and several members of what they called a "prolific burglary ring" operating in north Seattle (where I live) over the past several months.  Sure do hope they were the ones who gave me $300 and an improved back door.

Okay, enough of that nonsense.  What I really want to post about is what I was going to post about before having to deal with police and claims adjusters:  my latest art project!

I had an idea for an illuminated letter "O" with an owl inside.  I haven't worked with gold leaf in simply ages, and was eager to use it again -- until I started working with it, and remembered just how difficult the process is, and how extremely sensitive ultra-thin sheets of 22K gold leaf can be (burglars apparently have no use for it, as it was out on my art table and still is).  Anyway, here is a play-by-play of How To Lay Gold Leaf On A Painting Surface.

Here are the supplies:  sheets of gold leaf, fake rabbit-skin glue (no bunnies were harmed!), tweezers, Exacto knife, small brush for painting glue, squirrel hair brush (probably fake...but if not, do we care about bald squirrels?), bristle brush, and (not shown) burnishing stone and waxed paper.

STEP 1:  VERY carefully cut out a piece of gold leaf with an Exacto knife, a piece about twice as large as the area you want to cover.  DO NOT BREATHE -- any disturbance of the air anywhere near the leaf will crumple it up.

STEP 2:  While continuing to remember to breathe only away from where the leaf is, carefully paint glue onto the surface where the gold will go -- because the glue dries very quickly, you can only lay down pieces of gold leaf in approximate half-inch sections at most.

STEP 3:  Take the squirrel-hair brush, apply it to your forehead for some oil (you are definitely sweating by now, due to the hot bright lamp needed to see and the tension of proper breathing techniques), then touch the bristles lightly to the piece of leaf you cut out to lift it:

STEP 4:  CAREFULLY transfer the section of leaf to the area with the glue on it and touch it down.  This is the only thing this specialty brush is ever used for.

STEP 5:  Wait about 10-20 seconds, and then tamp down the leaf with the bristle brush:

STEP 6:  Go on to the next section, repeat.  When the entire piece is done, wait at least one hour and preferably 24 hours before burnishing the gold leaf with a smooth agate stone (and a sheet of wax paper between):

Done!  Wasn't that easy?

Now you can paint in the background with watercolor.

Oooh,  shiny!  Gold leaf application is tedious but satisfying, and there's just nothing else like it -- I've tried gold inks and paints, and while some are quite nice, it's still not the same as the real thing.

Come back next week for the finished piece.  And remember to keep your doors and windows locked!


  1. Great googly moogly that's a lot of work. I bet the "O" isn't very big either as you like to work with smaller stuff.
    Again, glad you and Truman are OK and things are moving along. Enjoy that new door!

    1. The O is about 4-1/2 inches. I'm planning to work even smaller soon, with a series of miniature paintings around 3x3. Stay tuned!

      Several people have told me to get security doors -- they go in front of the regular door (instead of a screen or storm door) and are much safer. Will ask door guy who is coming on Weds about those. Such fun!

  2. Yikes! I'm glad that it wasn't worse--and I'm not talking about the stress of working with gold leaf which I shall put on the list of things I will never have the patience or skill to do.