It Should Be a Staple in Every Artist's Stash

It’s hard to imagine life before gesso, especially since it has so many uses for mixed-media artists, in particular. In the newest Art Lesson from Jane Davenport, she lists some of the most popular ways to take advantage of this medium:

• Primer for canvas
• Strengthening agent
• Glaze
• Glue
• Transfer medium
• Stencil paste
• Modeling paste
• Stamping ink
• Pastel ground
• Paint
• Cover-up

“As far as I am concerned,” Jane says, “gesso should be a staple in every artist’s stash. It was invented eons ago to make paint behave itself. But, it can do far more than just act as a paint primer.” Indeed, as we’ve seen in the list above!

Love Eternal by Suzanne Drolet

An Example of Gesso in Mixed-Media Art: Love Eternal

Suzanne Drolet is a community member at who has shared several pieces of her artwork, featuring female faces and animal imagery. Using gesso was part of her process for Love Eternal, pictured here.

“I started this mixed-media artwork in my usual way by drawing out my composition,” Suzanne says. “I outline everything (except the face) with black gesso, making sure to spray with a fixative first, and I do a wash of quinacridone crimson using Golden Artist Colors(R) fluid acrylics.

“The biggest amount of work was in the face. I applied layer after layer of translucent color, adding more highlights and detail near the end. I worked on the wings next. I used tracing paper as a template for each individual feather and cut out each one using pages from a novel. I inked the edges of the feathers to give them an aged look, and then glued them in place with gel medium, making sure to let my black gesso outline show through.

“I used the same technique for the heart-shaped locket. I then glazed the background and added gesso dots. A wash of iridescent paint and white paint was applied over the feathers, and I painted the sides of the canvas, adding ink to the edges, and then more gesso dots.

“I used inspirational words inside all of the feathers, including ‘eternal,’ ‘peace,’ and ‘beautiful.’ The heart says ‘love.’ I used heavy gel medium to glue gemstones next to it.”

I’m not sure if it’s the dream-like feathers, the jet-black hair, or the piercing eyes, (maybe even the perfect lips!), but I have a hard time looking away from this image. Well done, Suzanne!

What's your favorite way to use gesso? Comment here, or show your work in our gallery. Learn even more about how to use this must-have mixed-media supply in Art Lessons 7, where Jane provides ways to put it to work for you.

With warm regards,

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Blog, Mixed-Media Supplies


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