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The above painting was created on a gessoed surface. I mixed some water, acrylic matte medium and acrylic white gesso together to make the juice. I roughly follow a formula that Kathleen Conover outlined in an article in Watercolor Artist magazine. However, I have found that I may ad a bit more gesso than she outlines. I probably use a bit more gesso to make the mixture thicker. I pour a dollop of the mixture onto the watercolor paper (140lb Coldpress Arches) and spread it with a credit card, swirling it and making slashes in the mixture so as to texture the surface. I have even added torn pieces of rice paper and sometimes sprinkle craft sand into the wet mixture. All of these things make for a nice textured surface to paint on. I allow the surface to dry and then draw and paint on it. In order for the pigment to respond well on the slicker surface, I use a bit less water. In some areas, where the gesso is thinner, the pigment sinks in. In other areas, it slides off the ridges created by the credit card. Where the gesso is the slickest, you can lift and change the washes and the whole creation begins to take on a life of it’s own. Because so much of the painting is created on top of this harder surface, I have to allow them to dry and then spray the entire painting with a good matte fixative.

If you would like to try painting on a surface like this, I have a step by step tutorial here.


  1. You are always creatively experimenting with paints, paper, different types of art medium that express lovely results. A really nice composition and painting. Thanks for sharing

    • Thank you, so much, for that comment about experimenting. I work with so many different artists and try to help them find what works best for them. That is what inspired me to explore in the beginning. Now, I like trying new thing, too!

  2. This is beautiful Leslie. And I like how the texture from the gesso in the sky mimics the branches. The texture in the birds and the branch make the eye dance over the image. Thanks for the step by step tutorial too.

    • I saw that, too, Carol. That was a happy accident, the branch textures. Thank you!

  3. What a beautiful painting.

  4. Your creativity amazes me Leslie! This painting has a life of its own indeed.

    • Thank you, Susan. Have you ever tried texturing the surface of your canvases for your acrylics? I am all thumbs working with acrylics but this works with them.

      • Yes as a matter of fact I have played with texture a bit.

      • I just went to your site and saw that beautiful abstract with texture!!!! Amazing!

  5. I have so many of these at my feeders! You captured them perfectly.

  6. One of my favourites of your paintings.

    • Thank you, kestralart! Maybe because I chose birds? I consider you the master at rendering birds!!!! 🙂

  7. Looking up to the branch like this is an unusual view-point for a painting – you totally captured the feeling of the height of the sky above the birds. I’m not expressing it well but I really like it and think you’ve done a superb painting here.

    • That perspective caught my eye with the reference for this, too, June. I liked looking up into those feathery underbellies of the finches. Thank you for this comment!

  8. Thanks for your direction, what a cool idea! Love your birdies too!

  9. Those birds are gorgeous!

  10. It sure creates interesting textures.

  11. Beautiful textures and such sweet little birds!

    • The birds were actually what drew me to want to paint this one, Cindy. Thank you!

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