Gesso Samlper with bubble wrap and sequin waste

Experimenting with gesso

This post is a Gesso Sampler as I’ve been experimenting with gesso this week for Crusade no 25!

My jar of gesso

    Gesso [‘dʒɛsːo] is the Italian word for “Board chalk” (akin to the Greek word “gypsum”), and is a powdered form of the mineral calcium carbonate used in art. [..] Modern acrylic “gesso” is actually a combination of calcium carbonate with an acrylic polymer medium latex, a pigment and other chemicals that ensure flexibility, and ensure long archival life. It is sold premixed for both sizing and priming a canvas for painting. [quote from]

The quote above explains that gesso is a white sticky paint mixed in a jar. It’s probably sold at an artist or craft store near you. And if you ask me, you need it! Get a big jar and start playing the artsy-fartsy game too!

crusade no 25

Gesso SamplerI remember a few years back when I read Lynne Perrella’s book Artists’ Journals and Sketchbooks. I was so frustrated that I didn’t know what gesso was and that I couldn’t look up words like that in my dictionary. I couldn’t get to sleep at night as I was thinking about where to get it and what to do with it… I can still feel this frustration when reading my favorite mag Cloth Paper Scissors sometimes when they namedrop interesting materials and new tools that are not pictured nor translatable to Swedish. But at least I know gesso by now, and I’m thankful for that.

Gesso Sampler

Gesso SamplerWhen I first got hold of gesso it made me feel (more than anything else) like a true artist! I’ve been using it as a primer in my altered books for years now! But gesso can be used in a lot of ways.

Let’s have a look, shall we?!

Handcarved swirl stamp loaded with gesso on a page in my Art Journal. Stamping with gesso makes a raised and interesting mark, that can then be painted over with acrylic paint. Here it’s orange on top of the gesso.

Then as the spread dried I went on to play on ordinary brown paper from a recent load of craft books (yummy stuff!) that I got in the mail! It was stuffed around the books as packing material and already had that lovely crumpled look. All I had to do was cut out smaller pieces and smooth it out a bit to start my Gesso Sampler! Talk about recycling, huh? So here it is;

Gesso Sampler
This is a pattern that I made with a wet sponge dipped in first gesso, then pink acrylic paint! I love how it looks together! Great background for any mixed media art or journaling.

Then I kind of freaked out with the sequin waste and bubble wrap!

Gesso Sampler
Painted gesso through the sequin waste holes, they are even but quite raised. Then I tried to go a bit further and drew with watercolor pencils on top of the gesso to see how that looks.

Gesso Sampler
The flower is acrylic paint stamped with a huge foam stamp on brown paper. The first flower is “as is” and the second one was covered with gesso and then polished with a napkin to kind of bring the pink back again, which makes it looks soft.

Gesso Sampler
I pressed the bubble wrap into the gesso and stamped it to the paper. I could just bubble wrap-stamp all day, oh how fun it is!

Gesso Sampler
I also painted gesso through a plastic table cloth with a lacy pattern. When it was dry I added blue acrylic paint to half of it to see the result. The gesso shines through in a very cool way. This result is my favorite of these experiments, as it was new to me. I will continue to stamp acrylic paint on brown paper and then paint on top of that!

I ♥ this crusade!

This is my post for Crusade number 25 for the Street team, and my experimentations with gesso was inspired by Michelle Ward’s post Properties of gesso! I have several things left to try with gesso. Resists with gesso, for example. That’s when you spritz water over the paint to make the gesso under come through!

And yeah, if you’re like me you will want all the background information too!?

Background information

A bit more information for the newbie artist:

Gesso Sampler
Bubble wrap and sequin waste!

Bubble wrap is a pliable transparent plastic material commonly used for packing fragile items. Regularly spaced, protruding air-filled hemispheres (“bubbles”) provide cushioning for breakable items or can be used as a stamp for fun patterns in mixed media art!

Smootches... Sequin waste is the plastic ribbon that is left over after sequins are punched out. I got mine from kind friends but you can purchase it online if you want to try it (search for punchinella). It’s great as a stencil for making patterns with gesso!

No animals was harmed during these experiments. Smilla was sleeping by my side and though my jeans got some stains, it was all well in the end and the stains could be removed!!!

If you’re here directly from the crusade I think you should check out my post Make 2009 your Art Journaling Year before you go – after you comment of course!

I ♥ deadlines

I think why I do heart the crusades so much is because they are to part. The are firstly inspiration as Michelle presents both great information and images to make you inspired. And secondly, and most important to me, they ask you to within a time limit, sit down and play! The more I think about this the more I understand my own true spirit: I work best with deadlines! I need a set time frame because I’m such a huge procrastinator! Sometimes I can set these time frames for myself, but it works best if someone else does it for me and expects result. Then I sit down and do it

29 Responses

  1. I love gesso! I have to buy it in a big jar because I use it so much. Did you know they now make a clear gesso?? It has the gritty properties of a white or black gesso, but it’s perfectly clear. I haven’t played much with it yet, but I bet it will be great.

    Thank you for sharing your experiments – so many interesting results!

    (I love your cat. She’s sweet and cute).


  2. This looks very cool!
    Thanks for the nice comment in my blog. Everything is well here in Norway. I hope you’re well too.

  3. Rosie, glad I’m only giving you enthusiasm and not my procrastination infection… ;-)

    I’ve heard about it but don’t think it’s sold in Sweden. Sounds kind of strange to prime with something invisible but I bet it would be fun to play with. And there is black gesso too, I’ve heard!

    Anette, glad you’re well!

  4. Nicely done! Experimenting with textures is awesome- I particularly like the bubble wrap bit, as I’ve never thought to use it that way and it brings up all sorts of ideas.

  5. Are you kidding? How fabulous can you BE!!
    I am reading this whole thing again.

    I love what you’d done!

  6. Hanna, you are so right about the crusades. They are good on several levels. Mostly,t o me, because they give us the courage and motivation to try new things because Michelle approaches them as the most natural thing to do, experiment with art to make self-expression even more enriching.

    I always want to work with bubble wrap when I see your experiments but I always forget! I’m going to do that tonight. I have only half a gesso experiment in waiting while I finished other things. Thanks for the continued inspiration.

  7. Chris,
    thanks for the cat link, how adorable that cat is! He looks just like the one I was wanting before I got Smilla, but that kitten was to expensive for me at the time and now of course i wouldn’t trade Smilla away for anything. Have fun with the bubble wrap, it’s awesome pattern making! Did you want kitty-cat-at like the one I sent to Diane? I have several left… Maybe we should do a trade soon? :-)

  8. hanna – bravo for taking the time to play with gesso! thank you for sharing all your results with your readers and the team. the best way to get familiar with something new is to just use it. i love seeing that you kept going, trying to investigate all the properties of gesso. a special thanks for the kind words about the team. my favorite thing about it is meeting kindred spirits (from all points on the globe) and that we all learn from one another. it’s so fun to see how each artist takes on the challenge, and how they share their work and their enthusiasm. thanks again hanna!

  9. What a great group of samples! I confess I too did not know what Gesso was (I think I originally thought is was a glue) about 4 years ago. I like that you shared your frustrations with not knowing sometimes what specific products are…we all find ourselves there sometimes!

  10. Great playing with gesso, Hanna ! Looks like you had a wonderful time ! I love the swirl stamp with the orange paint on top !
    Cheers, Crusader !

  11. Thanks so much for sharing all your experiences, Hanna. I’m just getting my feet, or I guess my fingers, wet, and all your info really helps. I’m making a lovely list for Santa – thanks for the inspiration!

    Merci mille fois!

  12. Oh! I’ve always wanted to try bubble-wrap stamping! (Really, I just keep forgetting about it or I get lazy!) Yours turned out so cool! Fun, fun!

    Hanna, you have always been a true artist in my eyes (and I’m sure so many others!). What does it take to make ourselves feel like an artist?
    I do understand what you meant when you wrote that using gesso “makes you feel like a true artist”. There’s something just so “official” about using it, I think!

    I am intrigued by all the neat textures in your house! Youv’e inspired me a neat journal idea! (and I don’t even journal, but I wish I did!) I think it would be a neat afternoon to go through every room in the house, making a journal page for each, describing each room with only rubbings and markings.

  13. Thanks for explaining gesso. I guess-0 I might have some and used it when I took an acyrlic painting class, and when I took the collage class too… I think that is what I spread over the top of everything to stick it all together and when it dried it shone.

    Or maybe it was something else! I think its called gel. Is that the same or different? LOL

    I Like all your experiments and it makes me want to go play with my gel and some grocery bags now. At least with the grocery bags and some fabric. Maybe make some ATC which I am not sure the defination of those either or why people make them but I got one in the mail recently and it was pretty.

  14. Thanks for your lovely comments! Yes get your fingers wet!

    acrylic gel medium is what you’re talking about, not gesso! It dries transparent and can also be used as a glue – gesso on the other hand is white and stays white when it’s dried as you can see in my examples above. It’s like white paint but a used as a primer mostly.

    The definition of ATC’s is Artist Trading Cards and those are made, just like any other art, to express something artistic! I’ve made many many a few years ago and traded them over the net! Have fun!

  15. Hi Hanna,
    LOVE your pages!! You are right about post coming into craft paper: good start for something arty! Love the waste sequins and the bubblewrap too and i feel with you for reading Cloth Paper and Scissor or Somerset Studio and not completely understanding what they mean… OR KNOWING that the stuff is not available (not in sweden for you, not in holland for me) GRRRRR. (And sometimes it makes me laugh: in CPS i read about wonderunder: should be the best. then in my small quilt shop i saw it, bought it and found out in holland it is called vliesofix, very common overhere, different brandname LOL) Thanks for sharing!

  16. Whoa, these are great. I especially like what you did with the sequin waste and the bubble wrap on that brown paper. I have a pile of that stuff somewhere. And I’m with you about the new mystery products in CPS — I still don’t know what Lutradur is and maybe I don’t want to! :) Thanks, Kim

  17. YOU have inspired me! I NEVER would have thought of the bubble wrap! I can’t wait to try it!!!! I love that you used the packing paper to expirament on! I remember having some punchinella at one time…only heaven knows if I can find it now…cool!

  18. Hi Hanna, thanks for sharing how you used gesso. I really like the look of the foam flower stamp. Now to go find the bubble wrap!

  19. Hanna, your examples, explanations and enthusiasm are so inspiring. I did a little bit of playing with gesso for this crusade but did not give in completely to spending enough time and making enough messes to really enjoy it. Now I think I shall go and make messes. Thanks for your inspiration.

  20. Hello Hanna,

    I loved reading your blog about your gesso-experiments : it was interesting, recognizable ( gesso was a secret for me until one year ago and the hunt for stuff that’s “special” ) , informative and the photos tickle to try things myself !!


  21. thankyou hannah for your wonderful inspiration. You are a true artist and a beautiful soul for sharing what I was trying to do but not courageous enough. thankyou again debzee in the desert

  22. So glad to inspire!

    Debzee darling, thank you, but I don’t know why you say you’re not courageous enough? I think you are. Just make up your mind to try something a towards art making and do it, I think you can! Pretent it’s for play, coz it is! If I can, and a few years ago I didn’t know anything, I think you can too! Good luck!

  23. Hello Hanna,

    thank you sooo much for the mention of sequin waste and where to find it!!! I live in Germany, where really no-one has heard of art journaling and have been looking “for the tiny holes stuff” for quite a while… trying to figure out what it is and where to get it, without much success. well, until today :)

    Apart from that I like your blog very much!

    penny lane

    • Thanks Penny Lane, I live in Sweden and I haven’t seen this stuff much here either, but on etsy etc there are plenty to be found and bought. Have fun with your art journaling and painting!

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