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This is a painting I did a couple of  years ago when I began to paint with watercolor on gessoed paper. I use Aquarius 2 watercolor paper because it doesn’t ripple as much when I apply gesso to the surface. I use white acrylic gesso and a 2 inch bristle brush (the stiffer the bristles the better). I buy the “cheapies in a paint store to use for this and wash the gesso out immediately under warm water after covering the paper.  I squirt a fairly large dollop of gesso onto the paper in the center and work it outward with my brush creating swirls and swishes in the surface of the gesso. I always pick the paper up and hold it to a light source.  By doing this you can see areas that may not have been covered by the gesso. I patch those areas and lay the paper on newspaper to dry overnight. The next day, I paint with watercolor on this surface I’ve created. This takes some practice as you paint with much less water and a more creamy mixture of your pigment. It is very easy to lift out the pigment if you make a mistake on this surface. It is similar to working on Yupo, but not as difficult. Generally I end up with a more abstract version of the subject than had I used watercolor paper with no gesso.

Other examples of watercolor on gesso can be found here and here.


  1. This is amazing, Leslie! The color is so rich and pure! Uh oh…. something else I have to try! *grin*

    • This will be so easy for you. It will be similar to your acrylic painting. Thank-you for your comment, Beth. 🙂

  2. I heard a report on NPR the other day. It was about how many people love cookbooks, even just reading through them like a novel. I find I have the same fun reading your art instruction. Thank you for your blog–art, instruction, and self.

    • Thank-you Yousei. My daughter loves cooking and likes reading cookbooks. I consider this a new outlook on what I try to share, a “recipe for art”? Sounds so nice. There are enough artists to have hundreds of recipes shared!

  3. Beautiful painting. I love the reds and greens which make this painting so vibrant. I particularly love the shadows on the steps!

    I never heard of using gesso on paper. You are a font of knowledge.

  4. i like it when you use such bright colours in your work you really know how to use them.
    There is no chef on earth that can make a door way edible.
    Can i request some nice turkey pictures.
    Just kidding

    • I thank you kind chef. I have never painted a turkey but now you’ve set the challenge. Someday, I will try to render a turkey just for you. 🙂

  5. Leslie, I am not an artist. I am more like a bull in a china shop, but I do enjoy finer things in life. I greatly enjoy the satisfaction, although she’s always complaining how bad they look, that my wife shows when she paints her watercolors. I love her work.
    I really like your work also. I think I’ve fallen in love with the West Highland Cow. Matt from Brooklyn, New York.

    • Hey Matt! Thanks for commenting on my blog and about Carol’s and my obsessions, LOL. I like your wife’s work, also. Thanks for the comment on the cow. They really have hair like that hanging in their face and they are small. I’d say they are half the size of an angus or hereford and not near as chunky. I’m trying to talk Carol into setting up a corner at home to paint there.

        • Matthew King
        • Posted December 17, 2009 at 2:46 am
        • Permalink

        We’re trying to get that corner, or back room, set up for Carol to paint at home undisturbed. Wish us luck!

      • I wish you all kinds of luck on this. I think Carol would really enjoy painting at home. She could do a little at a time.

  6. I like the vibrant color of this painting especially the white pillar against the shadowy door frame, it’s very inviting. Knock knock anyone home?

    • Thanks, Francis. Experimenting with the color for this house has been fun. I have painted it before. It is sort of a salmon pink and very interesting. It is in the historical neighborhood in our city. Thank-you for saying it looks inviting. I like doing doorways and try to make them appear inviting.

  7. This is really vibrant! Do you leave the ‘tooth’ in the gesso when you do this Leslie, or do you sand the gesso lightly?

  8. You ought to publish a book. Really. You have so many interesting techniques and generous tips that can only be achieved with experience. It would be a handy reference book that would quickly take on an oft-thumbed appearance.

    Lovely textured brush strokes, similar to an oil painting and I really like the splashes. The brave colour choices never look wrong in your hands. I’m enjoying these warm colours even more since it has just started snowing lightly here.

    • Thank-you June. You are so complimentary. I am hoping that everyone who wants will take advantage of what I’ve shared here. Then, if they have questions I’ll try to answer them. Much of what I try I get from books and magazine articles and then I struggle trying to figure out what they don’t say. I know I don’t eliminate all the questions in my explanations so I hope everyone who tries and has a question will ask. It is COLD, here, too! I was drawn to the warmth of this one yesterday when I chose to post it.

      • Compliments can sometimes be false or empty. I say what I really mean, no flattery, just the truth.

      • I know what you mean, June, I take your comments seriously. Am scared to even think about book as I watched my sister go through editor after editor with hers.

  9. I just love your old painting,Leslie 🙂
    Keep painting,my friend!!!!

    Enjoy your time!

  10. So, the gesso makes the surface more slippery?? Is that it?
    I love your intense colors!!

    • Hi Isabelle. The gesso makes the surface less absorbent, but not as slippery as Yupo. To get more vibrant color, a thicker application is neccessary. What I’ve found is that I have to play with getting paint applied to areas and then go in with new colors and lift some areas and add more color. It is more like playing in the paint than watching out for what you lay down. There is really no layering, but I found I could mix colors on the surface pretty easily.

  11. Whow! What a combination of greens and reds!

    I’ll show to my wife… and I’ll have to understand how prepare gesso for her!


    • Thanks Antonio. All you have to do is buy her a bottle of acrylic white gesso at the art supply store or order it. The brush can be purchased at any paint store and get one with stiff bristles. This works on any 140 lb watercolor paper. I just prefer Aquarius 2 for this technique.

  12. I often use watercolour in this way – undiluted. Especially since they are thicker and richer than acrylics in this form. Beautiful painting.

    • Thanks Heather. Hope others from here are visiting your site as we have such different approaches but enjoy seeing and commenting on what the other does!

      • It would be nice! Lol, but I don’t think they are. Our work is so different but I love to see how you approach your work and comment on it. It’s good if I can pick up something and incorporate it into my own work. I’m always on the lookout for new methods.

  13. Beth is right, the colors are so very rich in this one. As with all your work, this is beautiful. I wish you taught the kids at our local school. Our art teacher teaches primarily just seascapes and plein air (sp?) technique. He doesn’t seem to try much else, although, of course, the kids break out and do their own thing every so often! Don’t tell him I said this, he is a regular reader of my blog. Hope he doesn’t read yours!! OTOH, I wish he did, so he could try some of your many techniques!!

    • 🙂 Thank-you Kate. I could use his help on seascapes! LOL I wonder if the teacher’s budget for supplies is limited. Maybe some parent help on supplies is called for? It is easy to get into a mindset on what art is. Every time I think I have a clear understanding on some guidelines to present my students with, a new article or book comes out and opens a new door or breaks a guideline. That is why I try so much.

  14. I have no idea what the things you’re talking about are but I’m loving the painting.

  15. Thank you Leslie – I can really see the texture in the Lakeside Path painting.

  16. Warm vibrant colours, what a beautiful painting. Thank you for sharing it.

  17. Hi Leslie

    Damn, you’re good, better than good.

    You have the artist’s gift in you.

    I hope you and yours have a happy holiday 🙂

    • Thank-you Ichabod. What a wonderful thing to say. Happy Holidays to you too.

  18. I love this beautiful doorway, Leslie. The colors are so bright and welcoming. xo

  19. now this one has a wonderful ‘step into my World’ feeling Leslie….doorways with character fascinate me, and the portico stands out from the Watercolour, offering shade,…and gives a 3D effect. I shall sit on the steps and soak up the atmosphere.. xPenx

    • Thank you, Pen! A friend of mine felt the same as you and had this framed and it hangs in her living room. I love door and window paintings for the same reason. This is a home, here, in Fort Wayne in one of the historical neighborhoods.

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. By White Pup « Leslie White on 10 Nov 2011 at 3:45 pm

    […] watercolor on gesso paintings that I have done can be found here, here, and […]

  2. […] bright sunlight and the other darker? Where would our center of interest be? Would it be the doorway, a reflective window, a person standing outside? How did our structure or structures contrast or […]

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