Polychromy is painting three-dimensional objects with different coloured paints, whether they are statues, or picture frames. It can be as simple or as complex as you like and as abstract or realistic as you like. The choice is entirely yours.
On the right is the bottom-left of a hand-carved oak frame that has been gilded with schlag metal - a type of brass that is very malleable and can be beaten into sheets of leaf so that it can be processed like gold. It is on a resin mordant over a red bole paint and has been aged with 0000 grade steel wool.
Next, it has been painted with alien-looking characters and also the painting has been extended into the frame in a trompe l'oeil style that was so popular in the late medieval to the 15th century.
The medium for the paint was oils.
This frame - again hand-carved solid oak - has been gilded with schlag metal using a resin mordant but then has been painted with bands of ultramarine and red bole using pine resin dissolved in English double distilled turpentine as the medium.
The outside of the frame is painted in lamp black in the same medium.
The frame was finished off with rotten stone in acacia gum and water then wiped almost clean with a
clean cloth so as to age it and tone down the colours and reduce the gloss of the dry medium.
Polychromatic frames do not have to have gold though:
The frame on the right is a modern bare-wood moulding that has been supplied mitred which I have then assembled, carved (slightly) then primed, gessoed and painted with an Egyptian subset of colours:
- Egyptian Blue;
- Lapis Lazuli; and,
- Lamp Black
The medium for these paints was acacia gum and water.
The frame was then glossed with Winsor and Newton artist's gloss varnish and allowed to dry. It was then finished off with rotten stone in acacia gum and water then wiped almost clean with a clean cloth so as to age it, tone down the colours and reduce the gloss of the varnish.
In this case, it is just meant to be a colourful frame that brings out the colours that are used in the picture.
This frame is, like the previous frame, made from a modern moulding that has been assembled then carved. This has then been gessoed and painted.
All of the colours in it were available around the 14th- 15th century and the main colours are:
- madder lake
- yellow ochre
- lead tin yellow II
- lamp black
These two pictures within the frame have as an additional pigment, raw umber to get the darker brown. The other colours used are yellow ochre, gold ochre, lead tin yellow II, madder lake for the nose of the cat and and malachite for its eyes with lamp black and lead white allowing tints and shades.
Additional colours here are smalt in the coat of arms on the left and red lead in the coat of arms on the right.
The medium for all of these colours was acacia gum with water as the solvent.
Once it had dried, a coat of Winsor and Newton artists clear gloss varnish was applied and once that was dried, it was treated with rotten stone in acacia gum to tone down the gloss of the varnish.
Sometimes, the frame is painted so that it represents a rock that has been carved out to the shape of a frame.
Types of rock can include porphory, marble, granite and so on.
One particularly popular rock for frames to appear to be made from was Jasper.
The two photographs on the right are of the same piece of jasper (a sample that had been in a ball mill that you can buy in most towns) - one from each side.
The width of each image is around 1.5cm.
You can see that there are a lot of features in there with translucent, smokey sections, parts ranging in colour from cream to orange and red with inclusions of pink and orange to brown.
The rock has basically had a history that has included being broken up a lot and those cracks being filled with various materials.
Jasper comes in a variety of colours and you can make it a hobby to collect different ones.
Here, a dark rock that has many pale inclusions is represented.
There are various browns and other colours in there and across it run the cracks that have been filled up with what might be quartz of some type.
Cut into it is a depression with letters cut into it.
One thing that I have notice happens when you paint a frame to look like rock - and it is purely psychological - is that you feel as though you are looking at something as solid as rock, something that is as hard as stone. It is well worth the effort.
With a carved frame and then artefacts that you have introduced that are purely visual such as the groove with the lettering in it in the image on the right, your brain assumes that the groove and the lettering are really three-dimensional because it can see that the contours of the carved frame are real - being in an environment of paintings where areas of coloured paint make 'real objects' the painted groove takes on a reality of its own and becomes more than just paint.
Quartz, of course, is renowned for having gold in it - the process is that gold- and silica-containing water flushes into the crack and the silica and gold form a rock which later on, dissolves out. Silica is a lot more soluble in water than gold so the gold stays there. Then, the process cycles again and over many cycles, the gold builds up.
In the fantasy world that you have created with this trompe l'oeil art, the mind of the viewer builds a back-story that goes along the lines of: When you 'cut the rock' to build your frame you slice through the quartz and the occasional chunk of gold.
Here, primarily because it is only a small bit of the frame, 24c gold leaf is used.
In this case, the medium was oils on a hand-carved solid oak frame as the support. The frame was allowed to dry properly then a coat of Winsor and Newton artists clear gloss varnish was applied and once that was dried, it was treated with rotten stone in acacia gum to tone down the gloss of the varnish.
All images and original artwork Copyright ©2020 Paul Alan Grosse.