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Tag Archives: gesso

Reno is a black shepherd of a friend of my daughter.  I was asked to see what I could do with graphite and Reno’s image. I have to say that the photos I received drew me right in to wanting to try this project.  The above image was my first attempt. I used Stonehenge 250 GSM vellum finish paper and 2B thru 6B graphite pencils. I began the drawing with contour line and some light cross contours trying to build up his form. For the intial line I used the 2B pencil pressing down a little on those lines I wanted to be evident in the final drawing. Next I built up his coat with textured strokes trying to mimic his coat. I built the darker areas up with cross hatching and some cross contours across the bridge of his nose. I used 3,4 and 6 B pencils to do this. I next used a kneaded eraser to smudge out some of the detail in his coat in the bottom right hand corner. I built the background by scratching in loose abstract marks with the side of a dull 3B pencil. I then took my 4B pencil and scraped over a piece of rough sandpaper allowing the pwdered graphite to collect on a sheet of note paper. I took a non-lotioned kleenex and picked up the graphite powder I made and began to rub it into the background. I left the background light around his nose and head and darkened the remainder with several layers of the 3B powder. This process also took the edge off the random marks I’d made earlier but still allowed them to show through.I did not smudge the portrait and had to be careful to not rest my hand on his head throughout laying in the background.

I had always admired drawings I had seen on gessoed paper, so I decided to try one with Reno, above.  I used a bristle brush to apply acrylic white gesso to a piece of Aquarius II watercolor paper, making sure I applied the gesso in abstract strokes running different directions. This leaves the artist with a textured surface to work on. I then drew Reno again using contour and cross contour line. The graphite looked darker on this surface right away so I began with a 2H. I then began crosshatching the forms of the darks in gradually working up to a B pencil and finishing with a 3B. The texture of the gesso supplied the textural qualities you see in this drawing. I had to be careful to not rest any portion of my drawing hand on the work as it immediately smudged. I did no rubbing to produce this image. I thoroughly enjoyed working on a gessoed surface and will use this as a support for drawing again in the future.

I sprayed both drawings with Matte Fixative to prevent smudging with handling.

Thank-you, Chrissie, for introducing me to Reno!

I found this scene on the property where my daughter boards her horse. I think I was pulled in by the similarities of both subjects. Both the door and the tree looked as though they had weathered a lot of life. Oh the stories they could tell!

In creating the piece, I tried several techniques. Some of the clumps of leaves and grasses were rice paper glued on with acrylic matte medium and then drawn and painted on. The tree was covered in textured acrylic white gesso. I drew in the gnarly lines in the tree with black and brown waterproof ink and spritzed them with water while they were still wet. This causes the ink to run and create even more texture. I then went to work painting with watercolor and detailing the door.

Just found a beautiful poem written about a tree on jRuthKelly’s Blog found here. Enjoy!

Stephen Kellogg has been inspired to write a poem about this painting here. Thank-you Stephen!

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.