Gesso, pronounced “jeh·sow”, has many uses beyond just sealing your cotton canvas. Yes, gesso can be used as a base coat, but it can also be used to add texture to the canvas! Try laying down some undiluted gesso and put some bubble wrap on it then lift it up and see what you get! Play around with a straight edge like a cake knife, palette knife, trowel, or just about anything can be used to add texture to the gesso (feather, leaf, string of beads, etc). Keep in mind the thicker the gesso, the longer it will take to dry. You can also use gesso to adhere things to the canvas like sand, fabric, and other materials which add dimension to the canvas.
Personally, I like to have my canvas ready to paint on when I'm inspired to paint. If I had to prep the canvas, then begin my painting, I'd never get a painting started! So I always have a stack of Ready-To-Paint canvas available. I use 2 base-coats of gesso then another coat with color. I do several canvases at a time, assembly-line fashion, let them dry for a couple hrs while I do something else like paint a new painting. Then go back and put another layer on and repeat. I keep all my Ready-To-Paint canvas together so I can easily see when I'm running out. I also keep the new canvas together so I can see when I'm getting low and need to reorder. I use this process for Oil and Acrylic, floral and landscape paintings. Portrait work is different as you need a smoother surface. You can use Gessobords or sanded canvas. If you plan to use canvas for a portrait, sand each gesso layer after it drys to create a smooth surface to paint on.
There are gessos for other uses too! I use Golden Absorbent Ground for Watercolor Painting and Golden Pastel Ground for Charcoal/Graphite artwork.
The Golden Absorbent Ground is an acrylic liquid that dries to a porous, paper-like surface. I use it over gessoed canvas, making it a Watercolor Canvas! Oooo! Such an exciting product! You can also prime less conventional surfaces like wood or metal with this too. The product really opens the doors to different display options for Watercolor paintings without using glass to cover this moisture sensitive medium. With that said, you will need to use a fixative to seal the painting.
The Golden Pastel Ground is a translucent acrylic ground that can be used on paper, board, or any surface you'd like. It provides a rough, "gritty" tooth, which makes it perfect for graphite or charcoal. It actually contains finely ground sand! You can use this with canvas, wood, paper, or almost any surface! The product really opens up possibilities for artwork that is typically confined to standard papers.
Although I may change my mind in the future, I currently use gesso as a base for my Oil Paintings because it is archival acceptable since it can keep oil paints and solvents from penetrating the cotton canvas. Know that some artists think acrylic gesso is not a reliable base for oil painting because it could, eventually, separate from the other components. They truly believe that using the traditional formula of Italian gesso (glue gesso) or more modern oil primers is the best way to preserve the future value of an oil painting by because it creates a 'permanent bond' which may increase the longevity of the artwork. The Smithsonian Museum currently does not permit the use of acrylic gesso under oil paint. If you are of this mindset, you can use products like Gamblin Oil Painting Ground. It's a strong, bright, non-absorbent foundation. It's fast-drying, stiffer and stronger than acrylic gesso while having a nice tooth that permanently bonds with the oil paint. Winsor & Newton also makes an alkyd-based primer for an oil painting. Life is all about choices, isn't it?
The construction of a building is reliant on its foundation allowing it to exist for hundreds of years. So too the quality of materials you use for your artwork will establish the life of your artwork.
Happy Painting Choices!
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1. Daydream. Give yourself plenty of time to do nothing.
2. Be open to your surroundings. Look at the colors, lines, shadows.
3. Always have something to draw with. Sketch something that catches your eye. Then, create an idea notebook of your sketches.
4. Fold a 8.5x11 piece of paper in half, in half again, and once more. Now draw something in each box. Easy? Do it on both sides. Still easy – do it every day for a month. Use these sketches for new project ideas.
5. Keep it simple.
6. Be audacious.
7. It doesn't always have to make sense.
8. Don't wait for a good idea to come to you. Start by realizing an average idea – no one has to see it. Then develop it from there.
9. Leave the house and studio. When you spend too much time surrounded by the same objects, within the same walls it can all become stale. You can be inspired by examining a weed growing in the woods.
10. Hard work isn't always productive. Your brain needs periods of inactivity. I think of it as a field lying fallow; keep harvesting and the crops won't mature.
11. Don't restrict yourself to your own medium. It is just as possible to be inspired by a film-maker, fashion designer, writer or friend than another artist. Cross-pollination makes for an interesting outcome.
12. Don't try to second-guess what people will want to buy. Successful artists have been so because they have shown people something they hadn't imagined. If buyers all knew what they wanted before it had been made, they would have commissioned it.
13. Don't be afraid to scrap all your hard work and planning and do it differently at the last minute. It's easier to hold on to an idea because you're afraid to admit you were wrong than to let it go.
14, Don't expect inspiration to happen when anyone else is watching. It usually happens when you are on your own, and it's gone in a second so have something to sketch or write with.
15. Try not to analyze other voices and interpretations too much.
16. Have you ever had a popular item sell, then try to make a second one? It never comes out the same. If you are creating from someone else’s work, you will never be satisfied because you’ll never be able to duplicate it. Find your own voice and start there.
17. Mistakes can be inspiring – allow yourself to take risks, and do what scares you.
18. Remember that art is everywhere. It's amazing what you can find inspiring on the Red Line bus route in Cleveland.
19. Be kind to your voice. If you want it to inspire you, you have to inspire it with lots of rest.
20. Get some perspective. I thought I had to have art running in my head every second of every day. The truth is that when I stepped back from it and learn to enjoy the more mundane aspects of life, I appreciate my art so much more.
21. My peers, my family, and people in general are really impressive, they inspire me to come up with something equally impressive.
22. Spending time in your own head is important. I'm often scribbling down fragments that later act like trigger-points for my art.
23. A blank canvas can be very intimidating. Tear that old t-shirt into 4x4” squares. Dip the corner of one into a neutral gray paint. Use it to draw out an idea, like you would a pencil. Once you get the composition laid out, start filling in with some of the colors and before you know it you’ll have a painting!
24. Just start scribbling. The first draft is never your last draft. Nothing you create is by accident.
25. Often, the best artwork is a combination of two disparate ideas fitted together.
26. Don't be scared of failure. It’s a starting point not an end point.
27. If it's all getting too intense, remember it's only a painting. Check into real life with real people who have real problems. Then go back to your painting and you will have some perspective.
28. Listen to music I always have music on while I'm creating. I'm a very aural person. My taste varies wildly depending on what I need. If I’m hyperactive, I need something slow and soothing to settle me. If I’m feeling flat and uninspired, I listen to upbeat inspirational music. I typically start singing the lyrics when I start painting. As I get more immersed into the painting, I’m so focused I’m not really hearing the music any more.
29. Fidget. My mind seems to work best when my hands are occupied with something. Try play-do, a pencil for words or sketches – something that doesn’t require your brain to think about what it’s doing. This helps to focus my brain to create something new.
30. Go for a walk Wander around with no actual purpose in your path or direction. Maybe listen to music as you go. Again, it's about occupying one part of your brain, so that the other part is clear to be creative.
31. Seek inspiration from all sorts of sources; anything that allows you to think about how culture comes together. Observe people in the street; watch films, read, think about the conversations that you’ve had. Consider the gestures people use, or the colors they're wearing. It's about taking all the little everyday things and observing them with a critical eye; building up a scrapbook which you can draw on.
32. It's very important for inspiration to go elsewhere: to move away from a busy life into softer settings, and to make space for thought. Enjoy talking to people who aren't involved in art. It's useful to get perspective on what you are doing by talking to all sorts of different people.
33. Immerse yourself in the worlds of the people who will use and encounter your art to understand their perspective.
34. Forget the art for a minute. Focus totally on where people will be viewing your art in the spaces and places in people’s lives. Will it still be there next year, in five years, in 20. Will your artwork be passed down to the next generation?
35. The most inspiring thing is to see human ingenuity in action – it is all around us.
36. Ask unconventional questions. What if this library were a garden? If this facade could speak, would it be cooing, swearing, silent, erudite?
37. Gather inquisitive and reflective people around you. The rapid bouncing back and forth of an idea can generate compelling concepts at amazing speed.
38. Once there's an idea, turn it upside down and take it seriously for a moment – even if it seems silly.
Loves COLOR in any Medium! It's all about the feelings that are invoked by the beautiful, rich colors!