Making an Icon

Icons have been made using these methods for over
500 years.

I use either oak or lime panels with supporting trusses at the back - this stops the wood from warping.

Then 15 coats of gesso (rabbit skin glue and ground chalk) are painted over muslin and an optional wooden frame.

This is then sanded down to a 'marble' finish - any dents or scratches will show when gold leaf is applied.

Bole (ground clay and size) is then painted where the gold is to be laid.

Gold is applied using a 'gilder's tip' - this gold is thinner than a human hair!

The gold is burnished to a brilliant shine.

Then the egg tempera paint (egg yolk and pure ground pigment) is applied in many thin layers which slowly build up rich tones.

The icon is varnished when finished.

1. Glueing on muslin

1. Glueing on muslin

2. Trimming edge with blade

2. Trimming edge with blade

3. 15 coats of gesso

3. 15 coats of gesso

4. Sanding down to marble finish

4. Sanding down to marble finish

5. Scribing and Bole

5. Scribing and Bole

Water gilding over bole

Water gilding over bole

7. Building up layers of egg tempera

7. Building up layers of egg tempera

8. Complete icon

8. Complete icon

​​​​​​​Jan Treadgold