Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tuesday Tutorial: Textured Gesso

Indifference is isolation.  In difference is texture and wonder.
~ Edwin Schlossberg

Ever so often it's good for us to go back to basic elements of design.  As artist's our work tends to start to rely heavily on one particular principle or another and we can begin to miss opportunities to experiment with techniques that can give our work, as well as our self-discovery process more depth.  For example, my work relies heavily on color.  So I make it part of my weekly routine to do exercises like sketching, zentangle, and others to "practice my scales."

This simple technique is so easy and a fun way to get messy!  It can be done on heavy watercolor paper or regular canvas.

First, lather a good heap of gesso on your surface.

Really, get a good heaping amount on there!  Keep in mind as it dries, it will shrink up just a little...

Use a spoon or palette knife to spread it out over your paper.  Then go back over it with your fingers to start smoothing it out (unless of course you want these deep ruts.  That's fine too!  I find it easiest to go over it horizontally, then vertically, and then horizotally again.  As it starts to dry, you'll lose the ability to smooth it out.

Use the tip of a thin paint brush to start carving into the gesso while it is still wet.  Keep a paper towel handy to wipe off the excess.  You can also use a plastic fork, palette knife, pottery carving tools, old screwdriver, or toothpicks.

The amount of detail you will want to begin painting will determine how much carving you do.  If you are going to use a lot of color, writing on top, etc, then a lot of carving may be lost and you might be better off doing less.  But,  you can see how cool it looks just in a single color, and may want to get very detailed at this step.  Either way,  texture is similar to darkness and light.  You don't see one without the other.  If you want textured areas to stand out, make sure that you have some areas that have none.  Let dry thoroughly.

Now to add some color...

This is a sample using acrylic, gesso, and a transparent watercolor.  Whatever you choose to use, you'll want to make sure your paint is fairly liquidy.  You'll paint it on in broad brushstrokes and then have a  paper towel handy to dab off a little of the paint, taking care to leave as much paint in the crevices as possible.


For me, the acrylic was easiest to use, but it is the medium i work the most with.  It did take me a few times of applying it and wiping off excess to achieve the effect I wanted.

My gesso went on pretty thck as I didnt water it down on the palette, just squeezed some directly from tube to paper.  The effect is more rustic, and the streaks from the brush are apparent.

Watercolor was probably the easiest to apply and left the greatest contrast between the crevices and the rest of the paper.

At this point, you decide what you want to do next.. pen and ink, more painting with a fine brush, leaving it as is.  I'm going to use some chalk pastels...

Little moments can have a feeling
and a texture that is very real.
~ Ralph Fiennes



  1. This is beautiful Cori--and THANK you SO much for this tutorial!!!

  2. Fabulous tutorial Cori. Your mind must just be brimming with creativity constantly.
    Thanks for this, you have inspired me again.

  3. So glad you will find this one useful, ladies! Always honored when artists I admire stop by! For me these tutorials are about discovery through play, an element those of us who work in art every day sometimes lose sight of. Always good to do things to keep our process fresh!

  4. Wonderful idea to share...I must try this...it looks like so much fun...you have a lovely feel for color.
    xo, Suzi

  5. Very nice and informative post. Love all of the photos especially. I have often wondered what it would be like to do this with gesso. It's amazing what you can accomplish if you just experiment and have fun!! :)

  6. What a 'yummy' post Cori. Thanks for reminding me to get out of my comfort zone and try something like this. I am so used to sticking with my markers I have created all my art with them for awhile... thanks for the gentle nudge, I needed it!
    Hugs and blessings.

  7. WOW! thank you so much for this! i need to try it... :)
    love the quotes too!!

  8. looks great and sound like fun! thanks for sharing...I will try this out

  9. I really look forward to trying this!! I even think my kiddos would enjoy it

  10. Looks like fun and this looks wonderful.
    Thanks for sharing.

  11. You posted a great how-to tutorial. I love seeing your process evolve. Thank you!

  12. Very, very interesting and something I definitely want to play with. Have you tried this was an absorbent ground (like gesso) but more for water media?

  13. Hi Jacqui.. could you rephrase your question? Are you asking if I've tried it with something other than a watermedia paint? I've only tried it with the 3 paints that I listed. Would love to hear if anyone finds something else interesting to use it with!

  14. Wow, this is very cool and pretty! Lovin the tut!

  15. your journal pages are beautiful.

  16. This looks amazing and such a fun technique. Thank you so much for sharing.

  17. Beautiful! Very cool Tutorial Cori. Thanks for sharing your process:)

  18. Thanks so much for sharing this technique! This is going to be fun...
    Beth P

  19. What a great tutorial! Thank you! I'm always a sucker for some good texture! The depth that you have in the final piece is amazing!! wow.


  20. Terrific tutorial ~ will have to give it a try ~ thanks so much ~ enjoy the weekend ~ hugs, Carol ^_^

  21. Great tutorial...thanks so much for sharing! Your artwork is fun and wonderful!


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