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Elegant rubbings with Renaissance Foil
class notes
©2004, by Aisling D'Art


Above: Rubbings on black tissue paper, left to right:
religious medal -- gravestone casting -- MBTA subway token (2x actual size)

Supplies: You will need paper or fabric for your rubbings. If you're using fabric, it should be very thin such as a lightweight muslin. If you're using paper, it should not be stiff. Regular printer paper is fine, and--if you handle it carefully--tissue paper works well, too.

You'll need gesso, painting medium (gel or liquid), OR acrylic paint and water. (Gesso and painting medium are better than acrylic paint for this project, but it can vary with the brand of paint.) You'll need a brush to apply the gesso, medium, or paint.

You'll also need a textured surface as the subject of your rubbing, and a hard rubbing tool such as the side of a pencil.

Finally, you'll need a gold foil product sold as Renaissance Foil, that you can find at Michael's in the same section as their gold leaf products. This foil is sort of like carbon paper, except that the impression/rubbing sticks only to prepared surfaces.

1. Paint your paper or fabric surface with gesso, painting medium, or acrylic paint. A thin coat is enough, as long as the surface--where you'll be rubbing--is fully and evenly covered.

In this example, I'm using regular white printer paper, treated with black gesso.

If you use acrylic paint, thin it with water or painting medium. Paint can thicken the paper and prevent you from being able to highlight as many details.

2. When the prepared surface is fully dry, layer your supplies: Place the subject of the rubbing on the bottom. Then, place your prepared paper or fabric over it. On top, place a piece of Renaissance Foil, shiny side up.

(In the illustration, they're angled to show the layers. During the actual rubbing process, each layer is centered over the one below it.)

3. With the rubbing tool (I'm using the side of a pencil in the photo), rub firmly all over the area where you expect a design to appear. You'll probably need to rub more than you expect to.

If you lift the foil to see how it's working, be very certain not to move the paper from its position atop the subject/rubbing surface. You can move the foil, but if you move the paper your image can be distorted or blurred.

Continue rubbing until the image has transferred to the paper or fabric.

Save the foil. You can use it several times before all of the gold has worn off.

Here are the beginnings of two different rubbings. The one on the left is on regular printer paper, treated with black gesso. The rubbing on the right is black tissue paper treated with gel medium (matte).

The image on the tissue paper is clearer, but because the paper is so flexible, it's easy to rub areas (and pick up gold leaf) where there are no lines or designs. The image on the printer paper doesn't have such a clear contrast, but the image is sharper.




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