Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Different Use for Acrylic Gesso?

I recently read an article about using acrylic gesso to prime the back of a paper painting surface. It said that you do not need to stretch the paper if you used the gesso.

I tried an experiment of this technique and it worked really well.

What is gesso? Here is a quick definition

Acrylic gesso (from Wikipedia)

“Modern acrylic "gesso" is actually a combination of calcium carbonate with an acrylic polymer medium latex, a pigment and other chemicals that ensure flexibility, and ensure long archival life. It is sold premixed for both sizing and priming a canvas for painting. While it does contain calcium carbonate (CaCO3) to increase the absorbency of the primer coat, Titanium dioxide or titanium white is often added as the whitening agent. This allows the "gesso" to remain flexible enough to use on canvas.”

Or my basic definition is – Acrylic Gesso is like a thick white paint and is applied with a brush to prime a surface before painting a picture.


Using Acrylic Gesso instead of Stretching Paper Surfaces

Priming surfaces with acrylic gesso

Using gesso is the normal way to prime a painting surface; it is usually used to prime a stretched canvas before starting a painting.

It can also be used to prime card and paper. Priming the front of a paper or cardboard painting surface with gesso will change the absorbency of the surface, this means that the painting surface will not behave in the same manner as an untreated surface.

Gesso is applied with a brush so there is a surface texture and this seems to hold more paint than an untreated surface does.

You can apply gesso to the back of the paper?

If you don’t want the properties of the paper surface to change you can prime the back of the painting surface. This will also keep the paper from curling while you paint.

In my test piece I had to hold the paper onto a board with masking tape while I painted on the gesso and let it dry. It did curl a little when I removed the tape as you can see in the top photo. So I found it easiest to use some more masking tape to hold the paper in place on a board while I painted the picture (on the side with no gesso) as shown in the bottom photo.

During the painting the paper only buckled slightly when wet, and dried back flat. I think that this was very successful and I will definitely try this technique again.

I found it to be a successful alternative to conventional stretching paper.

Also, I've had a container of acrylic gesso for many months and this is a good way to make full use of it too. :-)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Add Cotton Buds to your Painting Equipment

Using Cotton Buds

I was recently painting a landscape and the middle distance area was too bright. It needed to be subdued to help give the picture a sense of depth.

With acrylics it is easy to just add a wash of a grey or blue grey to achieve this. However I wanted to keep a few lighter areas as well.

You can remove paint with paper towel but paper towel was a bit big for the areas I wanted to lift out.

Get organised before you paint

So I made sure that I had a couple of cotton buds handy before I painted on the wash. Acrylic dry quickly so you do not have time to go and get the cotton buds once the wash is applied!

Using the cotton bud I could easily lift off the colour in quite small areas, and it was much more controllable too. In this particular painting the wash was over a wooded area so I lifted off the colour to highlight just a few of the trees.

Keep a few with your brushes

I think that you will find it a good idea to add a couple of cotton buds to your painting equipment.