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Old 03-04-2012, 09:15 AM
craigchivers's Avatar
craigchivers craigchivers is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 177
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Gesso - looking for advice

Hi all,
I'm not sure which channel is best to post this but here we go.
I've for a long time wanted a little return to natural materials and to get away from using petro-chemical industry processed products in my painting. I studied historical techniques way back when, but most of it was theoretical. Now i'm finally attempting to put that knowledge to use and trying to prepare painting surfaces with traditional gesso. I've cross-indexed my books and pretty much all agree that the gelatin size should be mixed at 1:10 rabbit skin to water (double-boiled of course!) and that the gesso should be 1:1:1 glue:zinc:calcium.
I'm wondering if I should be using a mortar / pestle or a muller / slab to get a really consistent gesso? Right now i've just been using a large palette knife and palette for mixing. Even my 8 year old students know what happens when you mix 1 part liquid to 2 parts solid and that is a really thick paste, so there is no way you're applying that stuff with a brush! I think it was Doerner who said to use a spatula, and yes this is much more like mudding drywall than anything else.
I'm still not satisfied with the results but i'm determined. If anyone has any experience in making "real" gesso and preparing painting surfaces I would be much obliged.
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Old 03-25-2012, 09:49 PM
Keith Russell's Avatar
Keith Russell Keith Russell is offline
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Lenexa, Kansas, USA
Join Date: Aug 2000
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Re: Gesso - looking for advice

About a yearf ago, I made six panels, varying in size from 10 x 30 to 32 x 56 inches, and primed them with Gamblin's "Traditional Gesso". I loved the way the "Traditional Gesso" (which mixed up very thin, almost like skim milk) went onto the panels in several layers (often as many as eight), and became a very bright, uniformly white--and smooth--surfact.

But, there was a problem.

The surface was incredibly absorbent, and oil paints dried amost immediately--yes, much faster than acrylics! Now, I paint in layers, so if the first layer or two dried very fast, the next layers would be applied over paint, rather than over gesso (as the first layers had been).

So, after the panel was covered in paint, the paint worked pretty much the way I was accustomed, from then on.

But, still, I've decided I don't like the super-absorbency of the "traditional gesso"--and I don't like adding oil to the first layers, just to give me more working time.

I'm building more panels now (I still have a couple of the "Traditional Gesso" panels, and I'm going to use them), but the next several panels I make will be primed with Liquitex Gesso, which has a consistency I really like.
Forcing the waveform to collapse for sixteen years...
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