13 September, 2010

Monday's Art Tip 2 - Guesso Gesso

Image from here

You know those canvasses that say they're pre-primed... and unless you are making them yourself with a fabric like linen or calico or some other sort of canvas, most of the ones you buy would be 'pre-primed'.

Today's tip is simply to make sure you prime them again. Before you paint on them. It's the difference between your paint DRAGGING on the surface or GLIDING on the surface.

Obviously GOLDEN is my brand of choice - the gesso is like pouring cream - divine
Priming a canvas with gesso helps keep your paint on the surface, so that it doesn't seep through, which in turn means you'll have more control over the paint and be able to predict your results better. 

This Atelier brand of gesso is quite thick
I've been particularly interested in the concept of gesso since I saw this amazing portrait of Deborah Mailman by Evert Ploeg at the National Portrait Gallery. It's painted on jute, and the background is rough and raw, but her SKIN is so smooth you want to touch it. I imagine he built up layers of gesso and perhaps molding paste, to create this delicious distinction.

There's a terrific video here about how to prime your canvas - http://video.about.com/?bcpid=42795866001&bclid=0&bctid=326119601001

And a wonderful video here about going a step further than just simply priming with gesso, and making a totally smooth surface to paint on, using modelling paste -

There are different types of gesso, but I mainly use GOLDEN white or black. GOLDEN's Sandable Hard Gesso is great if you are painting on a rigid surface (timber, etc) and want to sand it between coats and get a super hard, smooth surface. You can use acrylic gesso under acrylic or oil paints.

So, if you haven't tried painting on a properly gesso'ed surface before, please try it - you'll notice the difference straight away.

Next week, we'll talk about the difference a coloured background makes.


  1. Thanks for that tip! I have been painting on preprimed canvases for some time and had never thought of putting a layer of Gesso on before I start my design. Will give this ago.

  2. Anna, your tips are priceless - thank you for starting this series of posts about painting, I have already learned so much ...
    Allison xx

  3. Yes, I'm interested in knowing about the different coloured backgrounds ... I never knew that people painted on black before.

    PS I think you're creating some competition for yourself with all these great tips!

  4. This will be a good start for me. And I'm excited because the big Dymocks stationery in the city is closing down and I got a truckload of good oilpaints for 75% off. I've never worked with oils before, but I think now is the time to rectify that!! Thanks for the tip, Anna. x

  5. I totally agree... Golden Gesso is the creamiest, best covering, most divine gesso I've ever used. Its looks so good I could almost eat it! Now I'm really sounding like a art junkie!


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