The Earth Reliant Artist

Trace Willans All Natural Mixed Media

Friday, February 25, 2011

Traditional Gesso

It bothers me when I ask people whether they are using tradtional gesso and they reply in the affirmative and then proceed to give me the name of the brand they are using. You cannot buy real traditional gesso only acrylic gesso. So I thought I would go through the steps for making good old fashioned real traditional gesso. Or at least the way I make it!!!
Above is a teaspoon of rabbitskin glue.

To this I add 13 teaspoons of water.
If you wish to make more just keep those ratios.

This must be left to soak for a minimum of 2 hours, when it will look nice and fluffy like this.

See, fluffy.

Then it needs to heated gently to disolve. I then add whiting (calcium carbonate) which is much cheaper bought from a pottery than an art supply. To this mix I add approx 2 1/2 heaped teaspoons. I know it seems to be an exhorbitant amount. Mix really well till it is all aborbed.

And it looks something like this. It needs to be used while it is warm. I usually turn the heat off but keep it in the hot water but do be aware that it will be thickening while it is cooling. I never make very much as while it can be reheated, it must be used within a couple of days as it will go off and boy does it stink.

And here are some painted pages awaiting being assembled into the next load of journals that will be off to Melbourne next month.
There is nothing nice, natural or environmentally friendly about this popular barnd.
Resin: Methylmethacrylate/butylacrylate copolymer dispersion polymer


ronnie said...

I've been thinking a great deal about the sort of things that go into most commercially available art supplies - and each day have grown more and more concerned..... (I'm not sure that I could bring myself to mixing up rabbit skin glue to make my own gesso however..... but thanks for sharing your recipe :=}

Velma Bolyard said...

trace, this is great. i was wondering about surface for cloth pages, and i like your gessoed ones. (yes, i really really like them) i have tried starch, and alternatively on pure daylily paper i have placed a wash of white gouache. thanks for your advice. i might give it a go.

Jo Murray said...

Thanks heaps for this posting. Will be off to buy some rabbitskin glue forthwith.

Fiona Dempster said...

Thanks Trace - that was really helpful and I am so impressed by the pages in the book you made; that I can see I might even get to make some and use it. After I've been brave enough to make marks in the beautiful book...

Lucky Dip Lisa said...

Thankyou for this wonderful post!

Trace Willans said...

You are all most welcome. I hope soon to do a series of posts on different coatings for pages and then we will venture in to the wonderful world of paint.

ZenDotStudio said...

is there a rabbit friendly substitute to make your own gesso?

I would love to begin exploring less toxic art materials

Trace Willans said...

There is a variety of gesso made with gelatin I know thats not much better but if you substitute agar agar it would be worth exploring.
You could also explore casein paint which is made from milk.
Or Egg Tempera is a beautiful paint.
Or make your paint from soy milk for a vegan altenative.
Rabbits are a really bad pest here in Oz.
x te