“All that glitters is not gold,” the Prince of Morocco famously opined in The Merchant of Venice.
Five centuries on, Shakespeare’s fictional prince could be excused for revising his opinion. Today he could see how contemporary artists are using glitter as their magical pixie dust to sprinkle over their decorative masterpieces.
Surrealist Emma Bateman says the medium catches the light, adding different dimensions – such as whimsy, sparkle and “a bit of magic” – to her work, rendering it less 2D. Influenced by Austrian symbolist Gustav Klimt, Emma says silver glitter recreates the effect of stars in her moonlit skies, while gold glitter simulates sunlight on cornfields.
“Perhaps it’s seen as a bit kindergarten,” she said, “but it’s more effective than many artists often realise.”
She advises would-be glitter artists to think about light and how the use of glitter can mimic the effect. Glitter can help parents give children a fun introduction to art, Emma believes. “Use some glue and glitter to make a sparkly picture. Ask your child to use a paintbrush and make patterns or draw a pictures with the glue. Sprinkle different coloured glitter over the paper, then shake. Children will love seeing what they have created.”
Abstract artist Amie Antoniak loves employing glitters; from fine, subtle glitter spray to more obvious chunky glitter flakes, to lend paintings extra depth, texture, sparkle and vibrancy. She thinks glitter is “quite kitsch” and works best with abstract expressionism, pop art and interior design work. Ami used glitter in her renowned firework painting, combining chunky glitter with small shiny beads to bring the piece to life. She said: “The black background has been created using hammerite smooth black paint which is highly glossy. Before the paint dried I added the silver/gold streaks, then sprinkled the glitter and beads on so they stuck on as the paint dried.”
Amie advises glitter artists: “There are no rules. Just experiment as much as possible and you will discover what works for you.”
She said children can make their own firework painting, using black card, luminous poster paint and glitter. Collages can be made by collecting sticks, stones, shells or beads, putting paint on a canvas and sticking these items into it, covering everything in glue and sprinkling glitter on top, or spraying with glitter spray, she added.
Jenni Eden’s maxim: “You can do whatever it is that makes your soul sing” inspires her vibrant, dancer-themed pieces. Colour combinations and the ways light affects colour make Jenni’s soul sing, enhanced by use of glitter, a medium she describes as joyous and versatile. She explained: “I treat the glitter rather like paint, combining many colours to create glitter blends. Shades of green and turquoise, for example.” The early Eden used glitter to represent hope-providing ‘universal light’, the light within and around her. She later used glitter for decorative costumes; creating beautiful, bedazzled skirts and bodices.
“It fundamentally reaches into the little girl in me and simply brings joy, by looking at sparkly, pretty things,” she said.
Eden says today’s children can try handprints, highlighting the fingers with glitter while the paint is still wet. One of her favourite creations, the Swan Lake-inspired Swan Dive – a brilliant burgundy piece, uses very fine glitters which change colour depending on the light. It’s a stunningly vivid piece which, along with the works of Emma and Amie, would be enjoyed universally through the ages…
Then even the Prince of Morocco would have to concede that at least much that glitters really is gold in the world of contemporary art.