For the past month and a half I've been working on a large icon of the "Ladder of Divine Ascent". I'm getting to the end of "opening up" the icon, which involves applying the base colors of all of the forms that are in the icon. Ideally, when this stage of the work is finished, the icon will be covered in beautiful,even, transparent, yet saturated passages of various colors in egg tempera. That's the theory, anyway.
But it takes a while to get to that point. First the cartoon, the master drawing for the icon, has to be drawn.
After the lines of the cartoon are traced onto the panel in Conte crayon (rubbed on the back of the cartoon) , the trace lines are then drawn-on in silverpoint (a silver wire in a holder that leaves a light but permanent line on the white gesso of the panel). Then the silverpoint lines are redrawn with a brush in red ochre mixed with egg emulsion, and the entire panel receives a transparent coat of yellow ochre.
The next step is gilding the icon. Once the areas to be gilded are covered with three sanded and polished layers of bole (a mixture of red clay and glue), they are covered with gold leaf.
Then, finally, its time to start "opening up the icon."