Gesso - what is it? and why am I so excited about it? I am by no means an expert in any way, shape or form when it comes to working with this medium, but because I think that there are so many fabulous effects that you can create when using it I am going to continue to explore with it, as well as share those explorations with you.
Gesso is thought of most often as a type of primer - a product that we can use to prepare a surface that does not easily accept paint. BUT it also acts as a terrific resist. There are many products on the market now that do act as a resist and so you might wonder why I would introduce you to yet another one, but what you will find is that with each one you will get a little different look. I feel that this particular medium has so much to offer because of the additional textural qualities it provides!
I personally believe that rubber stamps and gesso were made to go together - LOL! Artists who typically work with these fine art products might disagree with me, but that's OK - I know best (ha, ha). Today we are going to explore different ways to stamp with it, let it dry and then paint over it, buff it with a damp rag, spray water on it, sand it, add layers and more.
I hope what this "experiment" does is give you the courage to truly explore with it as I have done. What I have found is that happy accidents happen when using gesso! I am going to show you only one of my finished projects today and I will be sharing supply specifics and other details within the next couple of days in a separate post on Simple Dreams, to cut down on verbiage not related to techniques in this post. This is going to be a LONG post as is, so grab your coffee, tea or water and settle in. "Friendship is a thing of beauty" and today I would like to share my version of beauty with you my friends.
I had to share this picture so that you could see that there was a method to my madness in color selection (insert silly grin.) I began by selecting the Fashionista paper collection as my color inspiration.
When experimenting I find that it is useful to try numerous different options at the same time. This allows for less cleanup in the end and that makes me a happy girl. So you will see multiple project using this particular color scheme in the short time to come. I just can't create a tag and not show you how I plan on using it, now can I? So here is the method behind the madness of each tag, or perhaps more precisely stated the questions I was trying to answer by creating these tags.
- What happens when you stamp directly in to gesso? What type of texture will it create? How will the paint seep in to the cracks and crevices of this type of image?
- What happens when you apply gesso over a layer of acrylic paint and gesso?
- What happens when you mix gesso and acrylic paint together and create a new layer with this combination?
- What effects can you create when you place droplets of water on your project?
- What happens when you stamp a red rubber image painted with gesso?
- How will the acrylic paint react with the "bare" paper surface vs. the surface that has gesso applied?
- How will it look when you apply gesso over acrylic painted surfaces?
- What difference will it make if you apply "wet" acrylic paint vs. a more "dry brushed" acrylic paint?
- Can you remove additional acrylic paint by using a water misted rubber stamp?
- What happens to cardstock when painted with gesso? Does it curl and flatten, or???
- When adding a layer of acrylic paint what happens when you go "against the grain" vs. "with the grain" of the gesso strokes?
- If you allow the acrylic paint to dry can you still remove it from the surface? and if so how?
- What happens when you stamp over your gesso/acrylic painted surface with additional gesso?
- What type of ink works best stamped over gesso and acrylic paint? I found that the Archival Ink was the best suited to stamping my greeting over the top of this "mixture" of paint and gesso. I did heat set it wondering if the heat would make it bubble, but fortunately it all worked great.
- Can I age the surface of my projects? As I stated above I did distress my edges and the image with Distress Ink, but I found that I did have to heat it to get it to adhere. What you can't see is that I also stamped the top portion of this tag using Vintage Photo ink and the Aged Sheet Music Scrapblock. It doesn't really show up that well, but it does add a vintage charm to the whole project. Next time I will try and showcase this so that it is easier for you to see.
- What tools do I need for cleaning up? Water - water is your best aid in cleaning up any of your messes. I always keep a damp paper towel or rag at the ready. This will help you clean up any mistakes, or spills, or... I also highly recommend having an old toothbrush ready and at your sink for cleaning your red rubber images. As I stated earlier it will save you a whole lot of time and preserve the integrity of your images. If gesso is allowed to dry on your red rubber it can be extremely difficult to clean up.
To begin I painted gesso on to a portion of my tag. I then added a second and third layer, NOT allowing it to dry between layers. I wanted a nice thick gesso layer in which to stamp. I then used one of the highly detailed stamps from the Ornamental Beauty set to see what type of details the gesso would accept. Happily I ended up with a beautiful impression. A more solid, silhouette style of stamp will give totally unique results, but I believe they would be equally stunning in a different way.
After allowing this to dry I added a layer of Studio Paint. By using my color charts I mixed a color that coordinated with the colors of my Fashionista papers.
As you can see I painted against the grain of the brushstrokes of my gesso layer. I then took a damp paper towel and removed the excess paint. You could leave the paint, but I wanted a feel similar to what you might find in an old Italian or French village house.
After allowing this layer to dry I added yet another layer of gesso. This layer was very light and I ended up "dry brushing" the gesso in to my main image. By dry brushing I mean that I used a brush that was dry with very little gesso on it. This allows for a more detailed stroke. I would like to suggest to you that you try different brush strokes. Load your brush up and paint a stroke, use a "dry brush" with very little product and try another stroke. You will find that through this type of exploration you can get a good feel for the different looks you can achieve. Once again I allowed this portion to dry.
The next portion of my tag was to determine what look would be achieved by mixing gesso and Studio Paint together before applying it to my tag. I did not allow this layer to fully dry before adding my droplets of water. I am wondering now if I would have achieved yet another look entirely if I had done so. Instead I applied the water droplets and allowed them to sit on my damp surface for about a minute.
I then used my paper towel to wipe them off. As you can see some of the blue gesso dried, some droplets removed a lot of the blue gesso and others were yet a completely different look. I have to wonder if it has something to do with dry times on the surfaces. I don't know. But what I do know is that I loved this combination and know that someday I will explore this further.
CLEANING TIP: In this photo I included my toothbrush as a reminder to ALWAYS clean your red rubber stamps immediately after use. I find that quickly running over to the sink and running my image under warmish water and using an old toothbrush to clean the image will alleviate many hours of work at a later point.
I painted a layer of gesso directly on to my red rubber image (you will find another image below showing the amount of gesso that I use. I you slather on a layer that is too thick you will lose all the stamp details. If the layer is too thin, it will dry quickly and not leave an nice impression. Experimenting with the amount of gesso to use will be gained by experience only. So just give it a start, don't be afraid - many of my projects have ended in the trash can.
After allowing the gesso to fully dry (yes, I cheat and use my heat embossing tool) I topped this layer with a coat of Studio Paint. I used the same color mixture as shown in the tag above. As I stated earlier I like to work more than one project at a time so that I can take advantage of the products and brushes that I already have "dirtied", more bang for my cleaning time buck I guess you could say.
If you open some of these tag pictures and compare them side by side you will start seeing the subtle differences. For example if you compare this tag to the second tag in my Tag #1 series above you will see the texture of the brush strokes appear in a completely different way.
I then added more gesso, this time covering some of the fresh acrylic paint with the gesso. If you happen to stroke gesso or acrylic paint on a portion of your tag that you want to keep "free" just use a damp paper towel or rag to remove the excess gesso or paint. As I said these products are so forgiving.
With the last tag mixed my blue paint with gesso, this time I watered down my blue paint and just applied it directly to my gesso surface as well as stroking it on to my now acrylic painted surface. I allowed it to dry for a very short time period and then wiped it down with a slightly damp paper towel.
I wanted to share this picture so that you could see what my image now looked like before doing the next step. I think that perhaps I wiped away more than I wanted on my first try and so I came back in with some additional blue and did a second wipe. As I said earlier it is SO forgiving - you can just keep right on playing.
Water droplets worked great and so I wondered if I could get a more "precise" removal of some of the paint. I misted my highly detailed Scrapblock with water and then lightly pressed my tag to the surface of the Scrapblock. I was a little apprehensive about ruining my tag and so I did not leave it long.
As you can see I met with success along the left side of my tag. Wicked cool!!! I think with more practice and more experimentation this will be something that can add yet another fabulous layer to your projects.
You will also notice a small sanding block sitting beside the tag. You will notice in the first of the series of pictures above that once I had painted my green over the gesso, the gesso appeared muted by the green color. I wanted to try and make it "pop" a little more and so I grabbed my sanding block. COOLIE! It truly does make the details pop! Yet, when I run my fingers over the surface of this project I almost imagine that it is a type of "braille". I can feel the different crevices in this ornamental beauty!
This last tag is the one I knew that I wanted to use in my project for today. I was wondering if the bright colors would just blow this out of the water, so to speak, or if they would blend with my background papers.
As I painted on the gesso I was very conscious about the brush strokes I was leaving on my tag. I wanted to determine if on my next layer I would notice a difference when applying acrylic paint in the same direction vs. the opposite direction.
Yep, I heated it to dry because I am an impatient stamper - LOL!
I then added my acrylic paint. I don't know if you can tell that I changed the direction of my brush strokes in different parts. I knew that I did NOT want my tag to be this bright and so after allowing the paint to dry for a short time, I spritzed the surface with water.
I then rubbed the surface dry using a paper towel. As you can see I rubbed the tag in both directions. It is so wild to see the variations. I just have to laugh at myself - I am like a kid in a candy store when I have an opportunity to "play" like this.
I bent the tag to see if it would create cracks - just a couple, of oh so cool ones came through.
I then gessoed up my image one more time to see what the final effect would be by stamping over top of my gesso and acrylic paint layers.
As you can see I did age my tag using my Ink Blending tool and my favorite Antique Linen Distress Pad. That little pad is my absolute favorite for aging images. Thank you Tim and team for all you have done to bring us these snazzy little ink pads and reinkers!
Several additional questions I would like to answer are:
Fortunately I have discovered that gesso is very forgiving. I wiped a number of these projects down when I didn't like the look I was achieving. I also painted back over parts that I felt the color wasn't quite right - for example the red in the tag above was too cherry looking and so I added some yellow to a red and painted and wiped it again to achieve a better color. I could talk for hours, and hours about this
I want to encourage you to stop and take the time to "play". Spend an afternoon or evening playing with gesso, create different backgrounds and then share with us what you have discovered.