I’m most probably not the first to discover this, but it is entirely new to me!
Early this morning, I added some alcohol markers to a pen drawing I’d finished. I’d drawn over a Distress Ink background with some old book pages collaged and gessoed onto it.
I know gesso coats a surface with a waterproof and slightly textured finish. I do know this. But that didn’t occur to me as I added alcohol markers to the drawing.
I was absolutely delighted with the interesting variations in the intensity of colour that resulted. Also, the application of alcohol marker also brought out the texture where the gesso was patchy, even a little bit. The paper soaked up so much more colour than the gesso – duh go me for not realising that first, but that’s not the important thing – it’s the effects that result!
It’s not all that easy to see on the image to the left. But, behind the triangular pattern, I used just one soft blue marker, but you can see the variation in intensity! Usually, it would be a very flat kind of colour. The darker areas are where there is no gesso.
This is something I really want to use as I go forward. I love the crazy, random variations in colour and texture that happen. It seems to me a way to bring a little unpredictability to the rather predictable results you get with marker pens.
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.
I’ve been hard at work on my ‘A Dangle A Day’ book and felt I needed a break from the computer screen. As much as I love working digitally, I believe it does the soul good to work in different ways from time to time. A change is as good as a rest, it is said, and also a change can get the creative juices flowing!
A trip to Hobbycraft in Newport, Gwent, yesterday had me buying some A4 Daler-Rowney Mixed Media boards.
These are 1.4mm thick and sturdy board forms of their mixed media paper. The board did warp when I added tissue paper with matt medium, and it’s still a little wobbly today.
The pictures shows how far I’ve got for now. I’m letting the little drops of copper and golden glitter dry as I take a break from it to decide if I need to do any more to it.
The image I drew and then coloured using Distress Inks.
I’ve enjoyed getting a little inky, painty and messy for a change.
Two index cards worked on over the last day or two. The focal points are shells I drew, first on paper, then the image was worked on on my Surface book with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro and my Surface Pen,
I had to use scissors to cut out the shells (not my favourite task as I’m not good with scissors) after I’d coloured them using the Chameleon Color Tones and Color Tops marker pens. I’m really pleased with the colouring.
Lots of different techniques/media were used on the index cards – stamping, stenciling, inktense pencils, distress inks and distress oxide inks, pebeo dyna paints, perfect pearls sprays, gesso, clear holographic embossing powder from WOW!
I’m happy with them, though I’m not sure they’re quite finished, especially the little one.
Digital drawing library
I’m beginning to build up a library of my own digital drawings – fungi, flowers, shells at the moment, oh and one angler fish skeleton that I’ve not used yet (but that’s an idea for later or tomorrow maybe).
I have to decide if I put these images together as packs of ‘digi-stamps’ for sale…I’m really pleased with my shells here, but the fungi have worked out fine too. With my limited scissor skills, I’m keeping it in mind I need to keep the outlines relatively simple, but the inside of the design can be rather detailed, which is fun.
I started these 5″x 6″ cards yesterday and finished them (I think) this morning.
The focal images I drew myself on watercolour card. I used Caran D’Ache Supracolour watercolour pencils and a damp brush to colour them. I was quite happy with the colouring; I do find pencils a lot easier to use than traditional watercolours.
Nex, I cut three of them out around their edges and used a black marker to colour the white edges (and disguise my poor cutting out skills). I had to use a craft knife in a couple of places. The other two I cut out as small panels.
The drawings are a little bare of detail, mabye, but I can go back and add detail once I’ve decided what I’d like to do.
I’m not all that happy about the torn paper behind the focal images; you try things out and learn, maybe. The torn paper is Gelli printed tracing paper made using PaperArtsy Fresco paints. I then ran them through my Sizzix Big Shot in various embossing folders, and on some the embossed images have had some metallic waxes gently brushed over them. I also added some Inktense to the papers to darken the edges and add shadows.
What I am really happy with are the index cards themselves.
I started by covering them with gesso. Then, I used some foliage stamps from IndigoBlu with grey Archival Ink by Ranger to add patterns. I really liked this, as the patterns were softer and already ‘ghostly’ in the background, a much better choice than black Archival.
My next step was to add colour using ink blending sponges and Distress Oxide inks, followed by a spray of Gold perfect pearls mixed with water.
This is where there was an unexpected effect – the wet Distress Oxides were repelled from the Archival ink. I loved the result, as well as the way the colours mixed as they pooled around the stamped patterns.
Here’s a close up where you can see how the Archival Ink has repelled the Distress Oxide inks:
Then, I used Versamark Ink to stamp more foliage on some of the cards, and mini-mandala type patterns on others. I then sprinked WOW Embossing powder (clear holographic) over the ink then melted it with a heat tool. This added an extra layer of interest – a subtle layer as it can only be seen from certain angles.
I framed the cards using black Archival ink and a foam blending tool to give a distressed looking edge.
Then, it was just assembly of the focal points and so on, before sticking the index cards to some really thick card to get them nice and flat; the cards are so thin that they curl a lot when working on them, even with the layer of gesso to seal the card in. Cosmic Shimmer’s Specialist Acrylic Glue worked beautifully for this.
I had intended to make more ACEO cards, but I drew the focal images a tad too big for that format, so thought I’d try out an index card instead. I quite enjoyed working on the slightly larger scale.