Saturday, October 9, 2010


Yesterday I mentioned supports and described two that will soon arrive. Although the gesso board will come in nearly ready for use--that is, with its ground already applied, the birch panel will need attention.

Firstly, the bare wood will receive a coat of rabbit skin glue. (Note: Click on images for product details and a whole lot more. Natural Pigments really rocks!)

There are differing opinions on whether to use whiting with this first coat, but if so then only minimal whiting will be used. A second coat may use a richer mix. Fine Ground Calcite, aka Chalk, will be on hand. These first coats require something like a day each for drying.

After the second coat, I may then move to a regular mix of whiting and glue, a normal gesso recipe, or simply use a prepared gesso mix, Easy Gesso. I will be using the Extra Fine grade for a smoother finish. Any coats after the second are applied after a short setting time.

I have read in a few places that the building up of gesso panels from scratch is really not that formidable of a task. The process requires attention and patience but it sounds as though once one has the knack of it that many panels can be built up quickly.

I am rather short on details at this point, trying only to gain an overview before I move deeper into the details. Koo Schandler's book arrived today and will be my reference on details. More on that rich resource very soon!


  1. Ah John you make me pine so much for my lost art supplies. Egg tempera was my first love, hours of applying grounds sanding and smoothing the boards, lovingly grinding pigments, each careful stroke applied with precision. The whole "process" is delightful.
    I worked for a while with an icon painter in Cyprus, who made me laugh. She use lavender oil, mainly because the smell of the eggs made her feel sick!
    You can certainly use watercolours but its not for the purist as you say. I have a large very detailed portrait at my fathers house which was done in egg tempera which is now over 35 years old. It has suffered a bit of bloom in some of the dark colours but otherwise is fine.
    Good luck.. it is the most wonderful medium!

  2. Val, thank you for confirming watercolor use. I am leaning towards the purist perspective with grounds from scratch and historical pigments. But of course, I will need to pick up "modern" pigments from time to time.

    I love your Cyprus story.

    Egg tempera is the most fascinating learning experience yet in my little journey with art. What fun! :-)