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. Almost anything includes plastic, glass, wood, polystyrene, paper, linen or even a humble palm seed pod.
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, 😀
How To 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 guess-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 (not the fruity kind) and resin. Famous artists like Leonardo used calcium sulfate and rabbit skin glue. Ewwww, 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 for mixing
- 1 portion of PVA glue. The glue acts as a binder.
- 1 portion of craft paint
- 1 portion of talcum powder.
Talcum powder creates a fine texture and gives the paint some teeth to adhere to the surface. You can also use crushed chalk or plaster of Paris. I have found that plaster of Paris doesn’t keep and gets cloggy. If you’re looking for something with a little more texture, you can replace the talcum powder with sand.
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 waterbased. That’s just 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, in my case a dried palm seed pod 😀 I cleaned it off with soap and water first and cut it to the size I needed.
You can apply the gesso with a paintbrush, 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.
The homemade gesso is suitable for most media types including acrylics and oils. Just a word of warning, it’s not archival. So if your art is going to hang in a museum one day, it’s probably better to buy the real thing 😉 But hey, our cute giraffe couple will be going on our gallery wall in the bedroom, so I’m good with the homemade version.
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 giraffe couple was done with oil pastels and while I don’t think they’ll corrode a seed pod, you can never be too sure. Prepping your canvas with gesso is a great way to make sure that nothing seeps through from the “canvas” into your masterpiece 😉
I’ve used the gesso recipe for so many things, like this fairy water feature and to create a bark effect on our Spirit of the Forest wreath. We even used it when we made our giant rusty faux metal key. It’s inexpensive and perfect for those times when you don’t want to drive to the craft store. Homemade gesso should keep for about 1 month, but I tend to make a new batch every time based on how much I need.
Don’t forget to save the recipe to make your own Gesso
Feel free to experiment and add more talcum
teeth powder. You can also add fine sand if you want a rougher canvas with loads of texture. Oh BTW, and you can download the cute giraffe couple here if you’d like to make something similar. Just add your own spots.
And if you’d like to make something similar or prefer to buy rather than DIY, we’ve got you covered Disclosure: Clicking on the links below, means we may receive a commission from Amazon. But don’t worry it won’t come out of your pocket, and it helps us come up with more crafty ideas to share with you
Or if you prefer to buy rather than DIY.
Happy creating everyone and have a blessed week.