Sunday, 24 July 2011

Experiments with Texture in Gesso

I'm trying to decide how to decorate the frame for our nephew's wedding present, and having decided against crackle glaze this time, am doing some experiments with gesso, which can give some lovely textures.

My first attempts at stamping into it were a total disaster - I've seen Youtube videos where people get lovely results, and having taken some advice, it seems that gessos vary in thickness, and mine may be too wet. I'm just getting to the end of a tub of Cryla gesso, and once this is finished, I've got some Golden, which I hope may be better. It has been suggested that I wait a while for the gesso to dry a bit, and I am also considering spreading it less thickly.

I've decided to work small to start with, and have textured and painted three ATC-sized pieces of thick chipboard. The one on the right, with the all over peaks, reminds me unpleasantly of Artex - remember that awful stuff that people used to put all over their walls and ceilings in the 70s and 80s? Yeugh... impossible to get off too... nightmarish stuff! I did this one by pressing a Fiskar's texture plate into the gesso and then lifting it off. It was the least unsatisfactory of the three - the other two I tried with deeply-etched rubber stamps and was left with a total mess.

I left the peaked one as it was, as I quite liked the effect even if it wasn't what I'd intended, and then swirled some designs into the gesso on the other two, using my palette knife and the back end of a paintbrush handle.

01 Textured Gesso

Following some directions which I discovered on Youtube, I am painting these three small pieces with acrylic paint in three layers, starting with the lightest colour and working darker.

Here they are after the first layer.

02 1st Layer of Acrylic Paint

I put the paint on straight from the tube, dotting it randomly three or four times on the sample, and then rubbing it over the surface with my finger. The first one is done with a mixture of cadmium yellow with a little burnt umber; the second is just cadmium yellow, and the third one is ultramarine. I rubbed all over the surface with a dampened paper towel, and then started to rub in more specific areas, taking the colour right back.

After they were dry (the joy of acrylics is that they are sooo quick to dry!) I painted on a thin layer of gloss gel medium with a brush, and left that to dry. This protects the paint layer so that it is not damaged by rubbing the next layer.

The second layer made them look a bit more interesting.

03 2nd Layer of Acrylic Paint

The one on the left is done with cadmium red; the middle one with crimson alizarin and yellow ochre, rubbing most of it off the surround so that the heart remains red, and the right hand one with chrome yellow and Hooker's green.

The final layer was much darker; I did not put any on the blue/green sample because I liked it as it was, but on the first two, I put on aquamarine and burnt umber, rubbing it well into the texture and then rubbing most of it off; on the red heart sample, I left more in the centre and rubbed the surround almost back to the red/orange colour.

04 Finished Pieces

Here are the samples, one by one, showing more of the detail.

05 Heart and Swirls

On this first one, I have picked out the heart and swirls with gold Perfect Pearls. This doesn't really show up on the photo, I'm afraid, but it's quite iridescent. My hubby has got some gold Rub 'n Buff which I borrowed once, and asked him if I could borrow it again, but unfortunately he couldn't find it (must get some of my own!) so I had to use the Perfect Pearls instead, and I don't think the result is quite as good.

On the second one, I have added gold Perfect Pearls again, this time just on the heart and the deep texturing in the centre.

06 Red Heart

This doesn't show up on the photo at all! I don't know what it is about photographing shiny things but it never seems to come out properly, so you'll just have to take my word for it - it's quite gold!

The final sample I decided to rotate through 90 degrees as I preferred it in "portrait" format - it looks like seaweed under the sea.

07 Sea Green

On this one, I haven't added any Perfect Pearls, but I painted a little acrylic iridescent gel medium along the top, fading it into the centre part of the sample. I also picked out the texture along the bottom with some Glossy Accents. Again, the camera hasn't picked up these additions at all, which is rather disappointing.

I think I quite like the colouring of the blue/green one for my frame, but not with this texture. I need to practise some more and see if I can stamp into wet gesso without making a total mess; I am thinking of adding some butterflies and hearts, and maybe a few simple flowers, and picking out the highlights of the texture with some silver Rub 'n Buff if I can get some.

Meanwhile, I think my time has been used quite profitably this afternoon, and I am pleased with my first attempt at painting textures in gesso. I want to try using molding paste, which I have read takes Distress Inks much better than gesso does, and see what emerges.


  1. Oh Shosi, these are LOVELY! I love ATCs.....Do you want to trade??? :P

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Hi Nicole - thanks for the lovely comment! Yes, I'll trade! I'll see if I can find your email address...

  4. These turned out very well!

  5. Hi Shoshi:

    I was looking for the bees and found your incredible art in stead. What a pleasant surprise. I was an art major in college, but haven't done anything lately.

    God bless you friend, bob


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