The icons are painted on a piece of wood. The most suitable wood for this purpose is oak, lime-wood and cypress. We can also use industrial wood instead of natural wood.
First we make the surface of the wood smooth by rubbing it with fine sand paper. We then cut a piece of cotton or linen fabric a little bit larger than the wood. With a thick paint-brush we spread on the surface of the wood a specific glue or glue rabbit skin in grains, thinned out with water (proportion 1 to 10). We then moisten the fabric and squeeze it very well. We then put the fabric, (which is larger than the wood) on the wood. We stretch it very well to remove all wrinkles, and then we press it with a roller so that it sticks on the glue. The excess of the fabric is then stuck on the sides of the wood.
The dissolved liquid rabbit skin glue (proportion 1rabit sk. to 10 water ) will be mixed with chalk and zinc white. The proportions are: zinc white 20 grams, chalk 80 grams, dissolved rabbit skin glue 80 grams. Stir the whole mixture with a flat brush until the chalk and the zinc white have totally dissolved, and you have a homogeneous mixture.
Apply the gesso with a short-fiber paint roller.
Allow each layer to dry out before you apply the next layer of gesso.
Once you apply 13 layers with the roller, let the gesso dry, and sand it the next day with 150 grit sandpaper.
After sanding, apply 8 to 10 layers of gesso with a spatula.
Next day sand the gesso beginning with 220 grit sandpaper and finishing with 500 grit. Here are the sandpapers used for sanding the gesso: 220 grit, 330 grit, 400 grit, finishing the sanding with 500 grit.
The next stage is the gilding of the icon. We spread on the surface we wish to gild two or three coats of shellac thinned out with alcohol. When the shellac is dried , on the same surface we spread a coat of a special varnish called “mixion” which is used to glue the golden leafs on the icon. When the mixion is about to dry, we place our finger on the surface very gently and if it is slightly sticky we then place the golden leafs . This process demands skill and caution. As soon as we stick the golden leafs on , we spread a coat of shellac, thinned out with pure alcohol. In 10ml of alcohol we dissolve approximately 5 drops of shellac.
The paint used for the wall painting as well as for the icons are powder pigments. We must avoid the plastic or acrylic colours and we must follow the traditional way and mix the colours with egg yolk (egg tempera). We must remove the membrane from the yolk. If we wish the yolk to be preserved for some days we should mix it with vinegar (proportion 1 to 1).
Faithful to tradition
In my studio I paint the icons by using only traditional powder pigments. The pigments are fine powder which I mix with egg yolk. I prefer this technique because it is tested in time. Most of the icons which were painted many years ago, by the old iconographers ,are still preserved in a very good condition today.
© Theodoros Papadopoulos. All rights reserved.