If you’ve been following the blog for a while you’ll know that I’m a really bad cook, but I’ve got a surprise for you today. I’m actually going to share a recipe GASP!! But not one you’d normally use in the kitchen. Nope that would be way too dangerous. This is a recipe for gesso so you can turn almost anything into a canvas.
Gesso pronounced guess-o or jess-o has been used for centuries to prime a surface before painting. I always say geuss-o but I have no idea if that’s the right way to pronounce it. I’m Afrikaans and we have a tendency to say things in a weird way, think jean pants 😉 Way back when it was made with lime and resin. Famous artists like Leonardo used calcium sulfate and rabbit skin glue. Eewwww, that’s so not going to happen here. To make your own all you need is some PVA glue, craft paint and talcum powder.
The gesso you buy in arts and crafts shops consists of three parts; a binder, chalk or gypsum and color pigment, normally white. To make your own you’ll need:
- 1 portion of warm water and 1 portion of PVA glue to bind the mixture on to the surface you’re going to paint on.
- 1 portion of talcum powder. The powder creates texture and gives the paint some teeth to adhere to the surface. You can also use crushed chalk or plaster of paris.
- 1 portion of craft paint
Note a portion could be a cup, a teaspoon or any small container depending on how much you want to make.
You can use any color paint to make gesso. When I painted the Wild Woman I used black acrylic paint. Just make sure it’s water based, which is the fancy way of saying that you can clean your brushes off with water 😀 Mix the water, glue and paint together and then add the talcum powder until it looks like a thick gooey syrup without lumps.
Making and Prepping the Canvas
Apply the mixture to whatever you decide to use as a canvas. I took one of our palm seed pods, cleaned it off with soap and water and cut it to the size I needed.
You can apply the gesso with a paint brush, palette knife or just use your hands. I prefer the hands on approach because
I like getting dirty I can feel the texture of the gesso and squish it into the crevices.
The mixture dries pretty quickly, depending on how thick you apply it and you can add as many layers as you want. The pod needed two layers, with a light sanding in between, to create a smooth canvas. Once it’s dry you’re ready to make some art.
Don’t you just love giraffes? They one of my favorite animals, they’re so comical. Did you know in Atlanta, Georgia, it’s illegal to tie a giraffe to a telephone pole or street lamp? Go figure? If I ever take my pet giraffe for a walk there, I’ll have to remember that, LOL.
Gesso creates an absorbent surface with ‘teeth’ that allows the paint to grab onto the canvas (this comes from the talcum powder). The glue in the mix protects and seals the canvas, which is important if you’re using oils. They can be corrosive over time. The giraffes were done with oil pastels and while I don’t think they’ll corrode a seed pod, you can never be too sure. It’s also a great way to make sure that nothing seeps through from the “canvas” into your master piece 😉
I’ve used the gesso recipe to prepare a bread board, rusty saw, pallet off cuts, pieces of wood, plastic bottles and drop cloth for painting in the past. We even used it when we made our giant rusty faux metal key. Feel free to experiment and add more talcum teeth if you want a rougher canvas with loads of texture. Happy creating everyone and have a blessed week.
P.S. You can download the cute giraffe couple here if you’d like to make something similar. Just add your own spots 😉