Step 1 – Create a Gesso and Neocolor II background
Yesterday, I had a delivery of Finnabair Art Basics Clear and Heavy White Gessos, made by Prima Marketing. Neocolor II backgrounds are a lot of fun to make, but they do leave a smooth, waxy finish to the paper. I like drawing on it, but my pens aren’t too keen.
So, I wanted a way to seal the Necolor IIs into the paper and a surface I could draw on. Yesterday, I tried some glassy gel medium from my stash. It worked well, and the colours appeared more vibrant. It was OK to draw on, but the pen took a long while to dry, and I’m not sure how permanent the Micron ink would be on it.
Synchronicity-like, some suggested videos cropped up on YouTube where gesso had been used to prepare the paper and then seal in the Neocolor IIs, even using the gesso instead of water.
I have used gesso in the past, but it always felt very rough and gritty. However, the Finnabair Art Basics gessos had reviews that suggested they are smooth and chalky in feel. So, I had to try them.
I’m glad to say that they are smooth and chalky! I did spend a little time last night testing them out and gessoing some “polaroid pops” image tiles.
In today’s video, though, I wanted to quickly show what gesso is and how I’m thinking of using it, particularly in my sketchbooks with paper that won’t take much water.
I covered a page in my Hahnemuhle D&S sketchbook. The paper in this book is for drawing and sketching and is not designed for water-based media. I can get away with a barely damp brush on the paper, but only one, maybe two layers are possible before the paper starts breaking down. Gesso solves this by sealing the paper’s surface and creating a thin, flexible layer that can be worked upon. I used the heavy white gesso to do this.
Gesso dries really quickly, but a craft heat tool (or hairdryer) can help to speed the process up.
The next step was to add colour with the Neocolor IIs. I used water to activate them, though I could’ve used gesso. I wanted to create an uneven, weathered or worn kind of background. I started with the browns, sealed them with clear gesso. After this had dried, I added the blues and finally another layer of clear gesso.
Then, I was ready to try drawing on this.
2. Drawing on the gesso surface
I really didn’t know what would happen. I know I’ve used gesso in the distant past, but couldn’t remember if I’d used pens to draw on it or not.
As it happens, it was really lovely to draw on! The Sakura Pigma Sensei 04 pen did feel like it caught on the tooth of the gesso from time to time, but nothing more than a rough-surfaced paper. It may be my imagination, but the ink seemed darker on the gesso, perhaps because it dries on the surface and doesn’t sink into it, like it would with paper.
I did a test to see if, once dry, the ink would be affected by water or gesso. There was a tiny amount of pigment that seemed to move, but nothing noticeable.
3. The arch motifs/fragments
I really love round arches! It stems from my love of Romanesque architecture. I use them a lot in my artwork. So, I thought it was about time I explored individual arches as if they were fragments of a tangle pattern.
I’m so glad I rediscovered gesso. I’d forgotten how it could be used. I know the rough grittiness of the gessos I’d used in the past really did put me off using them again. However, this lovely, chalky smooth gesso is really nice to draw on. It also opens up more ways to create backgrounds and use colour. I’m sure I’ll continue to experiment and explore it going forward.