Featured artist: Natalie Oswald

Koi and Cranes, 36x48, acrylic, oil, and gold leaf on Ampersand Gessobord


Exploring new mediums and techniques keeps your painting process exciting and can lead to stylistic breakthroughs. I enjoy working in layers and playing with decorative elements such as gold leaf and repetitive patterns in order to make my painting surfaces richer and more interesting. Beginning my painting with Ampersand Gessobord is essential to my process. Many of the techniques I use require a rigid support with a smooth and consistent surface. Gessobord has both of these qualities. I prefer the 2" profile panels as they can be finished on the sides and hung without additional framing. The larger sizes of Gessobord are ideal for creating my large and dramatic works.


Block Printing with Gessobord

Gessobord is a wonderful surface for patterns made with stencils or block prints. For this painting, I carved a koi design into a soft rubber block of Safety-Kut™ using Speedball® linoleum block cutters. I mixed acrylic paint and Golden® Acrylic Glazing Liquid (this keeps the acrylic from drying too fast) and applied it to the block with a rubber brayer (fig. 1). I positioned the block face down on the panel and applied pressure with a rolling pin to transfer the image. I repeated this process multiple times (fig. 2-3).

Creating Depth with Layers

Unlike printing on paper, a print on Gessobord will have a slightly textured quality because it is not as absorbent as paper. This unique look is magical under layers of acrylic paint. For this painting, I applied several acrylic colors over the printed koi patterns in thin layers. Quinacridones and other transparent pigments are my favorites as they allow the patterns to show through. Sanding through the paint layers or applying metallic paints can also create lovely and aged-looking results.


Applying Gold Leaf

Gold leaf adds a dramatic touch of sparkle. Gessobord is an ideal surface for gold leaf because it is rigid and smooth. You can apply the leaf directly to the panel or over the acrylic paint layers as I have done here. Brush on a thin layer of Daniel Smith Quick Size (fig. 4) and wait ten or fifteen minutes until the glue is dry yet still tacky. Gently apply the gold leaf to the sizing using the backing papers or a squirrel-hair brush (fig. 5) and then remove the excess leaf (fig. 6).

Adding Imagery in Oil or Acrylic

The final layer of this painting was painted using traditional oil techniques. I used Daniel Smith Oils and painting mediums to paint two very detailed Japanese cranes (figs. 7). The elaborate printed surface underneath compliments the two birds nicely. My favorite brushes are the Daniel Smith Series 85-01 Oil Blender brush for softening brush strokes and the Series 44-12 Rigger to create flowing lines. To finish the painting, I use Golden® MSA UVLS Gloss Varnish to protect the delicate gold leaf and to give the painting a uniform glossy surface.


Artist Bio:

I paint to explore the vanity and fragility of the natural world. At times, painting becomes my personal indulgence and tribute to all things delightful. Birds soar over imaginary landscapes and koi are wrapped in swirling layers of iridescent waves. Tragedy weaves its way into my work, a reminder of the transient nature of beauty. Flowers grow from husks of grenades, sinister streams of dripping paint obscure a tranquil landscape and an innocent maiden sinks into the deep sea. Inspired by a childhood in the rural Northwest and travels to Asia, the imagery found in my work is rooted in the relentless process of growth and decay.

My paintings are often as much an exploration of materials as they are of ideas. The use of wood grain as a compositional element has led me to employ faux finishing techniques, replicating its look in a transparent layer over the top of finished paintings. Light refracting and luminescent pigments typically reserved for the auto industry find their way into my paintings creating areas of transient reflected light, allowing an image to be visible from one angle and disappear as the viewer moves around the work. Gold leaf, decorative pattern and glossy surfaces pay homage to a world rich in splendor and beauty. To see more of Natalie's work, visit her website.


Go back


Comment by Darlene |

I went looking for how to use gold leaf with pastels and came across this great article! Love this article and your work is gorgeous!

Add a comment

Please calculate 1 plus 4.