Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Easy Gesso

Last night I cleaned up an old gesso panel, sanding off all traces of a previous painting. I was left with a panel full of pin holes that had not previously surfaced--a perfect panel for testing. Using Natural Pigments (NP) Easy Gesso Extra Fine, I began to get the feeling for panel making.

This NP product comes with rabbit skin glue mixed with calcite and titanium white, ready for a 1:1 mix with warm water. Let this stand for at least two hours to gel up, warm slightly and paint it on. I placed a bowl of gesso mix above a pan of warm water and then spaced out, leaving it probably too warm for too long.

My mix was horribly peppered with chunks of mix that I learned to avoid by not dipping the brush too far into the bowl. Clearly I need to work on proper mixing, or at least pay more attention when heating the mix. Also, perhaps I was being so careful to avoid air bubbles in the mix that I didn't get a good smooth mix. Whatever, it was a good start on learning about handmade gesso panels.

Sanding between layers wasn't working well, probably because I couldn't find a sanding block. So instead, I used a scraper. It's a great little tool for creating a smooth surface but once I found my sanding block, 400 grit did a much better job. It cut faster and didn't leave behind shading that I attribute to the metal. For the final sanding, I switched to 600 grit.

Here's the smoothest panel I've ever felt or seen. And, not a pinhole in sight.

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