Reflective Infoxication' Silverleaf Oil Painting WIP

Hi guys, thanks for dropping by!.. Reflective Infoxication took many years of stops and starts till it's final completion (about 4 years altogether) and they were quite an eventful few years (at least for me) with many lessons learnt in life and art,. Thus, though I think it was completed very close to what I had envisioned at the onset, I did so as a very different person and hopefully a better artist..

I'll try to keep it as short and sweet as possible but I must warn ya to buckle up for a loooonnnggg post....!

'Reflective Infoxication' on the easel.
(the figure was grungyfied it a bit more after this. See last image for the final look)
Oil and Silverleaf on Canvasboard
Size: 24 x 17 Inches

Where It Began


Working out the composition...

Multiple thumbnail sketches....

Some of the colour, tonal and composition studies..

I decided on a colour pallet with a slight play on subtle complementaries. The toned canvas would be showing through quite a lot, thus playing a major part in the colour scheme.. 

​The 'negative' space (where the silverleaf would be) had to be carefully designed as well, as its reflective qualities would have a major effect on the overall composition.

Few tiny (about 2"x3") thumbnails were done first to suss out the composition and where the silverleaf would be.

I often work very small during the brainstorming phase so I can test my ideas out quickly with as much depth as possible.



I wanted the silverleaf to retain as much of its polished look as possible while still having a painterly texture, so the canvasboard was covered with thick gesso, applied with a pallet knife.

The ground was toned with raw umber acrylic + slow drying medium rubbed in to accentuate the palette knife + brushed textured surface of the support.

A 24 x 17 Inch texturally primed and toned canvasboard was prepared for the piece. I usually make my own supports from scratch to ensure the best quality and so they are just as I require for each individual piece.


Preliminary Drawing

As the composition can look quite different when blown up to size, the preliminary idea was worked on again with a fresh eye at its proper dimensions, to get it just right.

This is the final compo ready now to be lightly transferred to the canvas. 

Image was transferred to the canvas with oil paint paper (oil paint rubbed on normal thin paper that acts like carbon paper) 


Beginning the Silver Metal Leaf!

7 Materials

1. Silver Metal Leaf - I used Gedeo's Silver Metal leaf.
2. Gilding Paste (Size) - I used a Pebeo Gedeo Waterbased gilding in this case, but later I developed 
                              my own oil based paste that I prefer for large gilding projects now.. 
3. Brush (large flat & small round for details) - to apply the gilding paste. I usually drench my brush in liquid soap (then wipe with tissue) before using with waterbased size, as the size dries pretty quickly and can be almost impossible to remove without damaging the bristles once dry.. The soap helps minimize the size sticking to the bristles for easier clean up.. 
4. Large Soft Natural Bristle Makeup Mop Brush - This is to tamp down the silverleaf softly as one lays the silverleaf over the tacky size underneath.. The silverleaf it very susceptible to ingraining imprints made during this process, so a soft brush like this helps adhere the silverleaf delicately to the size..

Silver leafing with all the tools / materials used.

5. Hoghair filbert brush - to help remove excess silverleaf once dry.
6. Duct Tape - to remove stubbornly stuck silverleaf. 
7. Sharp Pointed Blade - for refining edges.

The leaf had to be applied in parts, as I used a waterbased gilding paste (store bought oil based was not available) that dried too fast for gilding all over at once... A No.0 round and No.10 Flat was used to apply the glue then a big makeup round brush to tamp down the leaf gently before smoothing very softly with my finger tip.

Removing stubbornly stuck silverleaf with duck tape.

After leaving it to dry for a day, the excess silverleaf was brushed off with a No.8 hoghair filbert. Some parts had stuck down hard in places with no glue though.. Nothing worked (scratching with a blade did but left the surface scuffed) till I tried duck tape!.. Worked like a charm... :)

Tidying up edges with a sharp pointed blade.

I then went over tidying the edges of the silver leaf and checking if any details had been missed. The missed areas were just carefully touched up with size and silverleaf again...

Second round of touching up and brushing off.

I was quite careful with this detail as I felt this stage to be quite important. When the light hits the canvas at certain angles, the silver leaf design will be the most prominent part seen..

More refining

Protecting the Silverleaf

Since I am using a composite metal leaf (not actual silver), it can tarnish in time if left to the elements.  So once the silverleaf was refined to my liking it was given 2 coats of clear acrylic gloss for protection - I do not recommend this though as I later learnt that acrylic dulls the shine of metal leaf. Now I opt to protect my metal leafed artworks with Liquin+a touch of Stand Oil+Turp.

See my experiments for my own oil based silverleaf sealant at - 

Applying the acrylic gloss to the silver.

With a photo taken in just the right lighting, you can see the completed silverleaf design in all its glory.



Beginning the underpainting in raw umber. Pure oil paint from the tube is used without any medium (even turps).

The underpainting needed to be done well as I would be leaving parts of it showing in the final.. Tones had to be carefully considered so as to ensure the viewers attention would be held, and eye led harmoniously throughout the piece. The underpainting was basically scumbled in thinnish layers (completely drying in between each layer) and a putty eraser helped for picking out details... I like the effect produced with the scumbling technique on the textured surface of the canvasboard, giving an interesting textural look as the paint settles in the ridges...

My set up at the time.. I later made some improvements to my easel, adding an attached mahl stick and mounting my pallet to a tripod. See my diy blog post with details of these improvements at Making a simple Mahl Stick Easel Attachment.

Completed Underpainting.

Deciding on Colour Palette

Several paintings were done to help me suss out the best palette to use for 'Reflective Infoxication'..

I initially started out trying a quite limited palette of Light Red, Cad Yellow, Cobalt Blue & Raw Umber for this piece..

Canine Slumber / Oil on Canvas / 6 x 6 inches
Collect a PRINT

'Backlite' (below) was created to test out a palette of Yellow Ocher, Light Red, Cad Red, Cobalt Blue, (Ultramarine just to liven it up a bit at the end), Raw Umber, Ivory Black, Flake and Titanium White.

Backlite / Oil and Silverleaf on Canvasboard / Size : 3.1 x 3.4 inches
See the WIP here.. or collect a PRINT

Next I tested out a palette of Titanium White, Light Red, Cad Red, Yellow Ocher, Viridian, Sap Green, Raw Umber & Ivory Black on this piece 'Original Sin Rebirth'.. 

Original Sin Rebirth / Oil and Silverleaf on Canvasboard / Size: 7.3 x 5.1 inches
See the WIP at Original Sin Rebirth WIP.. or collect a PRINT 

As mentioned there were multiple long breaks in creating 'Reflective Infoxication' so when I resumed it for the final time I felt I needed to paint a sort of warm up piece that also helped me test out my final palette of -

Flake White Hue, Yellow Ocher, Cad Yellow, Cad Red, Burnt Sienna, Alizarin Crimson, French Ultramarine, Sap Green, Phthalo Blue, Raw Umber (though not used in this piece Ivory Black was added later for 'Reflective Infoxication'), 

This little test painting is a cropped version of the original, at the same exact size.

Infox / Oil and Silverleaf on Unstretched Canvas / Size: 5.2 x 3.9 inches
See the WIP at Infox WIP.. or collect a PRINT 

Test painting
Infox shown here together with the completed large painting.

The 'Infox' test piece looked a little too polished for my liking and helped me evaluate how a contour pattern on the skin I had been thinking of doing for the final would look too (A sketch was done (see below, over my old preliminary drawing) for these linear contour lines, so a cohesive design for them could be worked out beforehand)...

Contour line sketch.

I ultimately decided to scrap this element though and also tone down the vibrancy of the turquoise blanket in the final as well...
Though I liked how 'Infox' looked in itself, this was not the look (feeling) I was going for, for 'Reflective Infoxication'(RI)..


Touching up Past Mistakes

After all these years I was not too happy with how I had done the initial preliminary drawing with such hard lines all over.. (These linear lines were to be incorporated in the final, which is probably why I did it this way before, but I felt they could have been done more sensitively ..) 
Though I lightened these lines a bit at this point, I felt the underpainting around the face was too dark, and worried the imperfect underpainting would show through in the final under the planned translucent layers of paint. (Luckily I needn't have fretted, as this turned out to not be the case)

The underpainting was touched up as best as could be though, before proceeding with the 1st layer of paint!

Touched up underpainting.

Beginning to Paint 'Reflective Infoxication' (RI)!

1st layer

After doing the 'Infox' test piece, I decided the raw umber areas (some of which will be left exposed) needed to have a more yellowy greeny tinge. So an ivory black was added to the palette and used in limited mixtures..

Palette of 11 Hues

Flake White Hue
Yellow Ocher
Cad Yellow
Cad Red
Burnt Sienna
Alizarin Crimson
French Ultramarine
Sap Green
Phthalo Blue
Raw Umber
Ivory Black

Brushes : a range of synthetic filberts (size 4 - 8) and small synthetic rounds (size 000 - 1)

Starting to paint. Began the eye by applying a smudge of raw umber

1st layer in progress

 I loved how the paint took to this smooth gesso surface, and really enjoyed painting on it. Unlike the 'Infox' test piece, it would require an extra thin layer though, as the smoother surface made it easier to create thinner layers of paint, which I liked..

On the Easel.. first layer for the whole figure is done..

The 1st layer for the figure was done, leaving the bottom halves of the legs untouched as it would be in the final.
I was careful not to develop the shadows too much, leaving it mostly flatish with the underpainting alone (darkening with raw umber and ivory black if need be). The plan was that this juxtaposition, contrasting with the relatively realistic rendering of the rest of the figure when complete, would create an exciting dynamic.

The hair would need to be darkened, but this was held off till the final layers around the hair could be painted, wet on wet, for a softer transition..

The Blanket.

I still wasn't sure how I was going to paint the blanket. The 'Infox' test piece was still way off what I felt I wanted. After a few false starts (see below..ewww) I soon found my way though. 

This false start was way off.. So the paint was removed and I tried again..

Raw Umber + ivory black wet base

I found that by working in to a wet layer of raw umber + ivory black with my blue mixture for the blanket and leaving the darker raw umber+ivory black shadows relatively untouched, I was able to achieve the sketchy look I was going for, that would suit the piece as a whole.. 

1st layer for the blanket. The paint was applied thinly (as with the figure I intend to apply 1 or 2 more layers).

Two shades of blue mix painted into wet raw umber+ivory black underpainting, leaving the brown shadows..

1st layer complete.


2nd Layer

​This was basically the phase of letting the piece 'speak' to me, as they say. Since this piece is incorporating the reverberating passages of the transparent underpainting, it was important that I make my compositional and modeling decisions carefully, as it would be quite difficult if not impossible to regain the initial look of these transparent layers or underpainting.

2nd layer in progress

Adding textured weave of blanket

Above you can see the textured weave of the blanket being painted in,..
I was careful not to lay these strokes too close to each other, so that the raw umber underpainting would show through, throughout.. This seemed to give a more pleasing look and depth to the blanket than attempts where I overdid these strokes.. A thin layer of raw umber was laid again first before painting into it wet on wet with the blue weaved strokes, painted in with small round (0- 000 sized) brushes. 

The raw umber shadows were left relatively untouched, as their warm tones reverberated well with the blue, complementing each other..

To help the upper half of the blanket recede and create a little depth, the blues in the upper half were gradually mixed with cooler hues like ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson & lemon yellow... This principle was used throughout. For example, the papers in the top used predominantly cool lemon yellow (+yellow ocher and ultramarine blue) compared to the those in the foreground where the warmer hues of cad yellow , yellow ocher and phthalo blue predominated (white is never just white!)

Painted part is done here.. Next is more gilding on the silverleaf!

As I was busy painting in details, I tried to step back often to assess how the tones and hues (warm, strong contrasts advance, cool & soft variances recede) were leading the eye of the viewer through the piece..

Strokes were placed only where needed, leaving patches of untouched underpainting (see top right newspaper, in its bottom corner). This required that deliberate thought be put into each stroke..


More Silverleaf Gilding!

Sometime half way through the painting process I began to feel the silverleaf was calling for more interest, and since I wouldn't be adding the contour linear lines, I needed something more to illustrate the concept of the piece too... 
I went back and forth on the design several times... I wanted something that would represent the swirls of the mandelbrot set in an understated manner and that would go with the style of the rest of the piece..

Reflective Infoxication' was calling out for some sort of burnt umber accents in the silverleaf too.

In the end I combined two separate designs that I had created, to get just the right balance that jived with the rest of the painting and created just the right feel I was going for.

Smudging edges..

Started off with this quite delicate design, which was then grungyfied to match the feel/style of the rest of the 'RI' more closely. On it's own it was still too 'pretty', but I wasn't done yet!

With just Burnt Umber detailing.. Despite 'grungyfying' my initial design, it was still too pretty by itself!..

Next I would be adding a silverleaf design on top of this burnt umber pattern, and tested out how it would look with some paper stencils first...

Seeing how my silverleaf design looked on top of the umber detailing with a paper stencil.

The shape of these paper stencils were traced on to the painting and as these lines would also be playing a part in the design, they were then defined in a thicker stylized manner.

Before applying the silverleaf on top, a burnt umber outline was painted in.. 

The previous silverleaf gilding had been protected with a clear acrylic gloss, as I mentioned before, an ignorant step done years ago. However this turned out for the best in the end, as this duller shine would now perfectly contrast with the more glossy Liquin+standoil protected silverleaf I would be adding on top!

This time I used a my own oil based 'gilding paste' recipe of Liquin+a touch of Stand Oil+Turp. 

The paste was left to dry (about 6 to 8hours) after application, till tacky, before laying on the silverleaf... which was then left a further 24hours to dry before removing the excess silverleaf. Besides the drying time (which was much extended with this oil based paste) the same tools, brushes etc. were used to tamp down etc., and later brush off the silverleaf as for the first silverleaf layer.

Brushing off excess Silverleaf.

After brushing off the excess leaf, masking tape was used to remove stubbornly stuck silverleaf, which gave the serendipitous effect of revealing a shadow of the umber design hidden beneath, creating a unifying organic feel to the design that was just perfect.. I couldn't have been happier with how it turned out in the end.. :)

This grungyfied effect was also mirrored with scuffy marks here and there throughout the silverleaf. Like an open/incomplete ensō circle representing the beauty of imperfection.

More burnt umber detailing was added on the edges later, here and there. Completed detailing..


Final Touches

After this it was just a matter of touching up bits and bobs throughout the painting.. Hard edges around the silverleaf in the background blanket, were carefully scraped back and softened with lighter paint...

The silverleaf edges of the upper blanket were softened.. Complete upper part..

... her toes were developed just a little more, 

... and finally a touch more shadowing here and there, to get the balance of tones / contrasts just right.

In the end, as I had suspected near the end, the linear lines were not added, as I really felt it would be more distracting than enhancing to the piece..

I had come to that stage, felt it, '​Reflective Infoxication' was finally Done!!

Complete Figure close up...
I grundgyfied the lighter parts of the figure to give a more raw feel to the piece.

'Reflective Infoxication' Complete.

If you've gotten this far I thank you for the perseverance!!... haha!

And to all who have followed 'Reflective Infoxication' develop in real time on my 'On the Easel...' page all these years, I am truly grateful for the support!.. :)

Please don't hesitate to drop a comment if  you have any questions or tips & tricks you'd like to share!

Ta for now folks!... :)

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