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My class is working on watercolors painted on a gessoed piece of 140 lb Arches coldpress paper. We mix the gesso by using one half gesso, one quarter water and one quarter acrylic matte medium. We then use a large brush to spread this mixture onto our watercolor paper. Before the gesso dries, we  take a credit card and make marks in that wet gessoed surface. Some of us have stirred art sand into the mixture as well. The card marks and slashes, plus the sand, give an interesting textured surface to paint on, once dried. I have posted a tutorial here if you would like to follow it and try this interesting technique. You can also click on the image of the horse, above, to get a better look at the texture of the surface. I have read, recently, where you can take cut out papers and gesso them into the surface as well. I would like to experiment with that this summer.


  1. Oh, yes! I love the textures created this way, I have experimented in a similar manner on one of my abstract acrylics. Beautifully created Leslie, I feel a lot of kindness out of that eye.

    • Thank you, Padmaja. I am sure this technique works really well with acrylics! I want to experiment with using cut papers in the gesso, also. Hopefully I can do that on summer break from classes.

  2. What a stunning color! You really got the sense of the muscular structure. What a wonderful painting!

    • Hi Isabelle. I used quin gold, halloween orange, quin burnt orange, and burnt umber for the golden portions of her. I used paynes gray, cerulean blue and blue stone for around her eye and muzzle. The greens were skip green and olive green and I drew down some of those darks from above into them. Thank you for this comment! 🙂

  3. Wonderful composition , which is also unusual, making for a superb painting. Have just bought some gesso for the first time so welcome your great instructions. This is my favourite horse painting now.

    • Thank you for that about composition, June. I cropped my image I used from wet canvas for this and then thought that I, perhaps had too much chest in it. I wanted the curving neck, though. I fiddled with getting the colors to describe her musculature forever, it seems. Anyway, until I thought it read as believable. Remember that this is a slick surface that you have to work your colors into together. It does not work well with layers, but I just keep painting and waiting and re-introducing my colors in. Once you get the forms in the way you want them, you use thicker pigment to do the details (paint with a lot less water so it doesn’t run everywhere). Some of my students struggled with that idea for awhile, but once they used thicker applications, it worked out fine for them. The other thing is that these don’t look as good until you spray them with a finishing fixative. I like to use a matte fixative. Gloss fixative is a little too shiny for my taste. Hope that helps in the event you’d like to try this. Hope you do. Any problems and you can always email me. 🙂

      • Really appreciate all the technical information for using gesso. The composition really works for me.

  4. What wonderful techniques you share. And this is a marvelous horse – very gracefully painted so as the textured gesso surface works well to bring out the musculature and supple hair.

    • Thank you, Sand Salt Moon! I turned my finished textured surface this way and that trying to decide where to draw her and which direction. Thank you for pointing that out. I, too, liked how those straight angled lines helped to describe the planes of her face and those swirling ones worked well into her neck and shoulders. Quite a different painting would have resulted had I turned it another way to paint it. Good eye!

  5. I absolutely adore the colors, Leslie!!! 🙂

    • Thank you, Cha! I described the colors I used, above in my reply to Isabelle in the event you’d like to know what they were, Cha.

  6. Not only is the technique impressive, but the strength and yet softness of the composition. You are forever the ultimate teacher. I love how you always share technique and enjoy the process.

    • Wow. Thank you, Nancy! Until you mentioned it, I did not notice the contrast between the softness of the composition and the strength portrayed by her chest and muscled neck. Thank you for that!

  7. Hi Leslie, I think the texture really suits the subject matter – reminds me of those raised veins (?) you see on race horses.

    • Thank you, Outside Authority. They do remind you of the veins, especially in the face.

  8. You can feel the power of this beautiful horse!

    • Thank you, Caroline. Yours and Nancy’s comment made me notice that! I’m beginning to think it is because I chose to render so much of her neck and chest. These are such interesting observations you all help me with and I thank you for that!

  9. That is one big beautiful horse! I always enjoy hearing about all the different techniques you use.

    • When you get settled in your new home, I want you to try this, Carol. You have to eventually paint with thicker paint but I know you will get a kick out of trying it! Thank you for this comment!

    • Inese Poga Art Gallery
    • Posted June 1, 2015 at 8:43 pm
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    • Reply

    This is just so great! I definitely should try it because I love things like that, not to mention textures, etc. Thanks Leslie for fantastic advise, summer is a perfect time to give a try to something more interesting! The horse painting is very good, you have very innovative approach to watercolor!

    • Oh, you would love this because it works so well with acrylics, Inese. You can do this to texture an acrylic canvas and I’ll bet it would be even easier to accomplish than what we do on paper. Thank you for this comment, Inese!

  10. A very fine and sumptuous horse. Definitely would like to nuzzle with him.

  11. You are amazing!

    • Thank you so much. Your donkeys and horses are amazing! I used to show and train horses and teach riding lessons. My daughter has two horses and a miniature donkey, now, on her farm. The donkey has brought the whole family many smiles and is everyone’s best friend. …and he’s so small!

  12. Beautiful!

  13. Stunning! Love all the texture.

  14. Beautifully done

  15. Leslie, this horse is beautiful, and I love seeing the texture and hearing about the technique. Thank you so much for commenting on my blog, I really appreciate it, and I am looking forward to following you and learning from you. Today is quite busy for me, but I will sit down and really take a look at your blog.

    • Hi Rachel,
      I enjoyed my visit to your blog. Thank you for the visit, here, as well as the comment. I hope to try and ad cut papers to this gesso surface and see how that turns out, also.

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