Scrape, Carve, Stain…With Gesso! (Mixed-Media Art Techniques)

Great news! There’s a new Art Lesson available, and this one is all about using gesso in mixed-media art–but maybe not the way you’re used to using it. Get a jar today and sit down with this awesome lesson as Roxanne Evans Stout helps you get to know this versatile medium! ~Cherie

Mixed-media supplies with Roxanne Evans Stout |
“Colorado Magic” (mixed-media art) by Roxanne Evans Stout: “I scraped gesso randomly over most of the page, which seemed to make the abandoned house move into the background. I painted gesso around my hummingbird stencil to make it stand out. Then I added a little dark pink pastel tint to the columbine and the hummingbird to add some warmth.” PIN this!

Mixed-Media Art Supplies: Using Gesso by Roxanne Evans Stout

You might just think of gesso as a medium used to prepare or add texture to the surface of your canvas, paper or board, but I like to use it as a final layer to my art! I think this is because I love the look of stone walls in a small French courtyard or the aged plaster walls that you might find in old city apartments, especially those where wallpaper has been partially removed and other layers are revealed.

In the Art Lesson that follows I will guide you through my processes as I add gesso to my collages. You’ll be able to watch as I apply gesso with a scraper, carve into it, stain it, and add texture to it. Gesso has a thick, chalky texture that can also add dimension to your mixed-media art. Scraping and staining gesso creates a feeling of imperfection, which is so attractive to me. I would love it if you tried out my techniques for yourself and found new ways to use gesso!

Mixed-media art by Roxanne Evans Stout |
Pages from Roxanne’s mixed-media art, “A Foggy Place.” She tells us, “I scraped gesso around the image of the tile on the left page and dabbed it with a damp paper towel to add more texture. I also scraped gesso down the right-hand page, holding the scraper lightly for an uneven application.”

Gesso, The Final Touch

Gesso is a white, chalky art medium that can add the feeling of vintage plaster to your art. I’ve discovered that gesso can be much more than a great surface to paint or collage on. It adds a touch of white and an accidental, imperfect quality that can be very appealing. I love to use gesso as a final layer in my artwork, and in this lesson I’ll show you how to use it in a variety of ways.

For this lesson I made four collages on small wood panels. I wanted them to have an old European feel, with warm, rich colors. My idea was to have distinct light and dark areas in each panel and for them to have the feeling or impression of a window–as if I were remembering some detail of a landscape I once saw. I grew up in a city, and daydreams of walking through long fields of grass often filled my imagination.

How to Prepare a Surface With Gesso

1. Paint a layer of gesso onto your substrate, applying it in one direction. Let dry.

2. Apply another layer of gesso, this time painting in the opposite direction. Dab the surface with a paper towel to add some texture.

3. Experiment with different paint colors on a practice sheet and pick 4–5 colors that call to you.

4. Determine the layout of your panels. I imagined a variety of landscapes with different horizon lines. I created a landscape with a low horizon, one with a high horizon, one with the horizon line somewhat in the middle, and one panel with a “window” in the center. Think about making each panel a slightly different color. Paint in the horizon or border lines on each of the panels, keeping the top section pale and the foreground more colorful. Click to download this Art Lesson and continue…

• Visit Roxanne’s website at

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• Buy her book, Storytelling with Collage: Techniques for Layering Color and Texture

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Blog, Mixed-Media Painting Techniques, Mixed-Media Techniques

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