Posts Tagged ‘Gesso’


Drawing Final: Kelly on Her Bean Bag

March 31, 2017

I still need to smooth out and clean up some places, but it’s mostly finished.

Although, you can lighten the drawing with an eraser on this gesso surface, you can’t really erase without smudging the graphite. However, it is possible to lightly scrape off the marks with a sharp knife or razor blade.


New Drawing Started: Kelly on Her Bean Bag

March 29, 2017

This is a new drawing I started of my friend sitting on her bean bag chair. The surface is a small gesso panel, 8.5 x 11″, and I’m drawing with graphite. She had this fuzzy shag carpeting on the floor, so to capture that I decided to brush on some graphite powder with a stiff brush.


Preview: Drawing on Liquitex Clear Gesso

October 19, 2016

In my ongoing exploration of drawing surfaces, I recently picked up a bottle of Liquitex Clear Gesso. An online friend was looking for a way to prime wood for oil paint but still let the grain of the wood show through. I suggested this product, and noticed that it was also recommended for drawing with pastels or other dry media.


Here I have painted a small square of the gesso on a sheet of black poster paper, and drew on it with a selection of different pencils; pastel, watercolor, graphite and charcoal. The media has a gritty sand paper texture like Ampersand’s Aquabord, or other similar acrylic primed surfaces that are made to have more tooth than regular acrylic dispersion (“gesso”) primers. It feels a little rougher than the Acrylic Ground for Pastels made by Golden. I suspect there’s acrylic resin mixed in to make it clear, since the Pastel Ground has silica and looks grayer when it’s wet. You can add water mixable paints or inks to color this gesso if you wish, and it can be thinned with water.


The particles catch the light and will give the surface a slight sheen at an angle. It’s thinner than regular acrylic gesso, more like acrylic medium. To avoid brush marks you might consider thinning it and applying multiple coats to make the strokes less noticeable, or use a sprayer. An eraser won’t work well removing any marks, but you can dab the surface and lighten them with an eraser. I noticed that if this gets slightly scratched it will leave scratch marks behind.


You can also paint on this with acrylics, gouache, casein, or oils. The tooth will give the paint something to adhere to on any hard slick surface, but it’s recommended that the surface first be sanded before applying the gesso, which might be noticeable through the clear gesso. My main complaint with these rough surfaces for painting is that they really chew up my brushes.


Art Material Review: Sinopia’s Casein Gesso

November 12, 2015


A few days ago I popped over to Sinopia’s website to see what’s new. They’ve long been highly regarded as an excellent supplier of raw pigment and paint making supplies. Among this is material for making casein paint and gesso grounds. Gesso, as you may know from some previous posts of mine, is a paint ground made traditionally with rabbit skin glue or casein, and different types of plaster solids. What was new to me is they now offer a casein based gesso that you can buy ready-made. No mixing of materials, just open the can and paint it on. I ordered a small jar of it that arrived this afternoon.

As I waited for the order to arrive, I fired off a few questions to Sinopia that they responded to quickly.
If I use this on paper, since it contains oil, should I first add sizing to the paper before applying the gesso?
“Even though the Gesso contains a linseed oil emulsion, it is completely water soluble and safe to use on paper without any sort of primer. The Casein Gesso makes a great substrate for oil painting.”

Does it have a shelf life?
“No, our Gesso does not have a shelf life. Although, once the container is opened and air gets into the jar, then the paint starts to skin over after a few weeks. In that case, the dried paint layer can simply be peeled off and the paint underneath is still in perfect shape.”

Should it only be used on firm supports? Can it be used on stretched canvas as well as wood panels?
“The Gesso works well on both panels and stretched canvas.”


Below are my first impressions of this product:
It is very thick, more so than I expected. Thicker than acrylic primers I have used, but about the same as oil primers. It can be brushed on right out of the jar, but you’ll need a good thick brush. However, it can certainly be thinned with water. If you thin it and use it as an oil paint surface, I would recommend sizing the surface first.


In the picture above I show on the left a thinned mixture (about 30% water) on a black sheet of mat board. On the right side of the board I painted 2 coats right out of the jar. I painted the 2nd coat (not thinned) after about 15 minutes, and it took about 30 minutes or so for that to dry to the touch. A hair drier can speed up the evaporation of the water content.


In this picture I’m comparing the 2 coats of gesso to Golden’s acrylic primer. The primer is much thinner, and 2 coats of it are not as bright as 2 coats of gesso. The gesso covers quite well, even on this dark black paper.


There was no information about how long to wait before I start painting on this surface. In my initial test, I waited 2 hours after applying the 2nd coat, and tested casein, oil, and gouache paint. I used the paint right out of the tube, and thinned with water or turpentine for the oil. I saw no problem with adhesion, or more importantly no reaction with the ground lifting into the paint. I even washed the surface with a brush loaded with water, dabbed it with a paper towel, and none of the white was released.

Other thoughts:
Regarding oils, it is recommended by Golden when using their acrylic primer that has been thinned with water, you should wait several days for all the water to evaporate before applying any oil paint to the primer surface. In this case, I would advise the same with the casein gesso, since there is some water already inside it.

In Sinopia’s description on the website they say this has “all the same qualities” of rabbit skin glue gesso. I would say it has some, but it doesn’t feel the same. I’ve made many gesso panels using RSG or casein (without using an oil emulsion,) and I can say that this surface feels different. Traditional gesso feels like a slab of cold stone. This reminds me more of an oil primed surface. It is a water and oil emulsion, after all. I like that feel, but it’s not like traditional gesso to me. The big difference with an oil primed surface and this, of course, is you can’t use any water media on top of an oil primer. Also, an oil primer takes a long time to cure, but this does not.

Comparing this to a traditional gesso ground, despite the different feel, this has many similarities and some benefits. RSG requires much more preparation time, and has to be held at a warm temperature while using. Once it’s made it has a shelf life of only a few days at the most. Casein gesso that I’ve made (not using emulsified oil) can last up to 4 to 6 months in refrigeration, and then starts to break down and become useless. According to Sinopia, this product can be stored indefinitely. No refrigeration is required. It’s equally as versatile as traditional gesso for use with all media, but according to Sinopia can be used on flexible surfaces like a stretched canvas, which is not true of traditional gesso.

The biggest problem I’ve had with acrylic primed surfaces is they destroy brushes. The solids in them will wear down an expensive brush in no time at all. Time will tell if this casein gesso will have the same problem. I suspect not. There are some acrylic primers that will work with watercolor or gouache, like Fredrix’s Watercolor Canvas, or Ampersand’s Aquabord, but the surface has to be made porous so they’re even rougher for brushes. Also, if you apply those primers yourself, like Golden’s Absorbent Ground, they are supposed to be applied on top of a standard acrylic ground, so you have to have both types. This casein gesso doesn’t have those problems. It appears to me at this point to be more versatile, potentially more so than any other ground on the market!

I’ve only had this for a day, so much more testing is required. My first impression is very positive.


Homemade Acrylic Gesso Experiment

September 3, 2015

I wanted to see if I could use an acrylic medium to approximate the same quality of surface I get using animal protein (hide glue or casein) for my binder when making gesso. This will not be the same result as the commercial brands of acrylic gesso you see on the market. That’s more like paint. The goal of this is to keep it very thin, and sand it to give me a surface that’s smooth as marble.

My choice for acrylic polymer medium for this experiment was Golden’s GAC 800 medium. The description of it being “useful as a modifier when adhesion to chalky surfaces is desired” sounded good for this application. The solids I’m using are the same as what I use for traditional gesso: calcium carbonate. I sometimes also add titanium white pigment, but not this time. I wanted something more grey. The surface I’m applying it to is a medium thickness black mat board. The black will help me evaluate the coverage better, and again I’m trying for a grey undertone for the artwork I’m planning. I normally use a wood panel for my gesso, but I wanted to see if the acrylic would allow me to work on something a bit more flexible.


The mat sheet is in the center (approximately 18 x 24″) with 12 coats of my acrylic gesso mixture applied. I coated the back of the sheet with a couple coats of thinned medium (no solids) to keep it from warping. The amount of medium is roughly 10% by volume, but I haven’t been doing any careful measuring – just going by sight. In the end, I wanted something very thin, like a watercolor wash, or onion soup, so it has quite a lot of water. There’s a piece of the original black mat board on the far left. I placed a sheet of white copy paper on the right to show the contrast.


This bowl shows a small amount of the gesso left over, and helps show how thin it is. I applied a single coat on that black sample to the right. It dries relatively quickly – about 15 minutes to the touch, and the texture feels the same as the traditional gesso I make.

So far so good. I’m going to let it continue to air dry for a couple days, and then see how well I can sand it smooth.


New Drawing: Viky On a Tall Stool

August 7, 2015


I’m continuing to draw with the Molotow ink marker, looking to find the best and least expensive surface for sketching. This is a casein gesso that I painted on a sheet of mat board. It worked okay, but I think I made the glue a little too weak, since the ink would lift off some of the surface as it got wetter. I had to let it dry for a minute before going back over it. For the darker areas here I also used a dark gray PITT ink marker.


The model is my friend Viky, sitting on a tall stool.


Traditional Gesso on Wet Media Film

February 7, 2015

In my on-going tests of Grafix Wet Media Film, I wanted to see how traditional gesso (made with rabbit skin glue) would work on this surface. First, I got to this point after making up a batch of gesso yesterday in order to cover a thin wood panel that I had. Since I had some gesso left over, I thought it would be a good opportunity to test it on the film as well. Here’s a previous post on how I make my gesso; although, I didn’t use fabric this time, just brushed on the gesso directly to the panel.


Here’s the wood panel I made using 6 coats of gesso. It came out fine, without any cracks or bubbles. I still need to sand the edges down a bit to get it uniformly smooth. With a panel this thin it’s important to weight it down as it dries so the water doesn’t warp it. Once the gesso was touch-dry, I placed it under some heavy books for a few hours before sanding.


Here’s a sheet of the Wet Media film coated with 4 coats of the same gesso. To avoid the extra sanding this time, I decided to use a 9 inch trowel and scrape it on. I made the gesso a little bit thicker so it would trowel easily. The surface came out very smooth, but the adhesion is not very strong. It scrapes off pretty easily with just a pocket knife. It should still work out just fine as log as the surface isn’t damaged.


One feature of having the gesso on the clear film is that I can see through it. Here’s a sketch I made recently. When I place it under the gesso film, and hold it up to a window, you can see the drawing beneath. The film is thin and flimsy, so I’ll need to mount this to a firm panel to keep the gesso from cracking. I might even try using a thicker plastic sheet, perhaps ABS. I will need to sand the surface to improve the adhesion, but it should work well.