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Getting Started with Acrylic Paints

Lesson 8 of 13

Demo: Gesso a Surface

Mary Jane Begin

Getting Started with Acrylic Paints

Mary Jane Begin

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Lesson Info

8. Demo: Gesso a Surface

Lesson Info

Demo: Gesso a Surface

I wanna show you how you would gesso a surface, because gessoing is something that you can control the texture of the surface. Let's see if I can find my board. Okay. And just before we talk about that there are some other surfaces that you can use, which are illustration boards, and I'll show you that in a minute. But those are very much like watercolor paper. They tend to be very smooth in reaction, like a hot press. But I'll show that to you after I show you the gesso. Okay, so this I gessoed, and I just did one layer in one direction., and you can kinda see the streak of the brush. I used this brush right here. I'm gonna open this. (lid dropping) Rid of this. And you can see it's this thick, almost like house paint. Thicker than house paint, really. It's a very dense material and it's because you're trying to seal out what's underneath. In this case, this is wood. And you might say well why would you use wood instead of a canvas? The reason why some people like it is that it, there...

's no pressure, there's no resist. It's like you push on it, it's really firm. When you look at a canvas you push on, or a piece of paper, you can feel a little bit of resist if the paper is stretched or if the canvas is stretched over boards. This push back. And some people just prefer (knocking on wood) the hardness of the wood. Is there a difference in the way the color looks? No, it's totally feel. It's how it feels to you. And so that is very much about personal choice. So I would say test it, see if you like it. Some people love it and some people are like, "Oh my God, I can't stand working on a piece of wood." So I'm gonna show you basically what I did with the other side, and then I'm gonna do something to that side. But with gesso, you're basically just coating that whole surface to seal in the color, excuse me, seal in the wood, and so the color won't absorb into the wood, otherwise it will. And you can go in two different directions. Many people will layer several layers of gesso to make sure that it's really solidly covered and that no wood is gonna shine through. But, typically, when you're gessoing, this streak of the brush, and you can see it, is actually going to be apparent when you layer color on top of it, okay? So that's kind of an important thing, and if you go in two different directions you create the kind of weave that you see on a canvas. But that streak, I'll show you, actually comes through when you paint a piece of color on top of it. Now, the other thing that you could do with a gesso surface, and I might layer this a couple more times before I would sand it, is if you don't like, and I'll just, I don't know if you can hear this. (rubbing surface of wood) (giggles) It's dry, it's a surface, and it's a resist, and so when people paint on it, I'm not gonna do this side, this side's wet, it feels toothy. It has a reaction to it. Some people want it slick as can be, so okay, this might not sound good on camera, I don't know. (sanding board) I'm sorry. (blowing) So, now, listen to the sound. (rubbing surface of wood) Now you can layer this a couple times, let it fully dry, put some more gesso on, let it fully dry so it's a nice thick coat, and then sand, sand, and you can wax on, wax off as much as you want. You can move in circular motions, back and forth, but all that you're doing is taking the tooth off of that gesso so it's more smooth, has less of the streak of the paint. I've left this side kinda rough, so I'm not gonna test color on this side because you would never paint your acrylics into wet gesso. It's just, it's white, and it's just gonna make your whole painting white. But we are gonna test the dry side. This part's smooth. This part's rough. Alright, so let's test with, we'll try with one of our rounds instead. Kenna, color please. Let's go back to green. Okay, what if we do a green that we mix into a yellow to make a zowie kind of green? Let's do that, okay. So I'm gonna mix these colors, and I'm gonna do them super thick. Now, see it's, this is what you wanna avoid. That yellow is drying. Look at that, it's plastic. You don't want that on your painting. So that's when you grab your paint and you squeeze more out. And don't be afraid to use this stuff. Like I said, I do have students who will put a little tiny patch of acrylic color on their palette, and it dries instantly, and they're tryin' to save money. It's like, it's not, look at how much paint is in that tube. So I can appreciate and respect wanting to save money, but with acrylics you're gonna get that stringy cakiness and you really don't want that. So what I wanna do here, and I'll use some medium as well to show you what it looks like. This is the smooth side. Now, you can still see. Look at that, it almost looks like wood grain. It's picked up the wood grain and the brush stroke, which is kinda neat. Now I'm gonna use a little bit of the gloss. But it looks and feels different than the paper. It has a different feel and a different look because there's no absorption into this gesso. The gesso is like a countertop. It is not letting the color sink in at all. Okay, and then if you do a really thick patch of it, you could do really like impasto. Try that. You're seeing a little less of the streak of the both the wood grain and also the, really the brush stroke. It's mostly hidden, but I can see it because there's a shine to the paint. So that's the smooth side. Let's see if there's a difference on the rough side. It's not so much the way it looks as the way it feels. As I'm dragging this color across, I can and if I show you in dry brush, I can feel that paint resisting my pressure, and it's just an interesting and different feeling for how you're painting this stuff. I'm gonna use a little bit of my gloss medium, and see how it looks if I, yeah. So it's not visually particularly different, but it is, it just feels really different, and that has to do with tooth versus sanded. And let me see if anything's dry up there. I wanna see if we can glaze a color. I wanna show you. They're still a little bit wet. I'd like to test the glazing on, maybe I'll do it on a canvas instead. But this is basically what you can do not only for a board, you can actually gesso a piece of illustration board. You can gesso on a 300 pound watercolor. It can hack it. It can handle it. But if you do that, again, you would paint with a brush like this a big X on the back to create reverse tension, so that that the paper doesn't buckle too much. It creates a sort of flatter surface. You don't need to do that with a piece of wood. So paper surfaces, illustration board, you're usually okay, but, again, if it's a big picture, I'd paint a big X to create reverse tension, so that that board doesn't warp. And the gessoed surface just gives a different kind of quality. If you look at say the cold press and you look at this surface, the gessoed surface, they don't look the same. This looks and feels more like a watercolor surface and the color reacts more like watercolor. On a gessoed surface, it reacts more like traditional oils and has more of the texture of both the brush and the surface of the gesso, the streak of the gesso. And, again, this is just a matter of, it's taste, so what feels good to you. This is fun just to do. You could do this. Colors, mix them, make a block of color. It's very satisfying. It's almost like, it's almost therapy. You're just mixing color and it feels really good, and this is how you get to know the materials that you're working with. So getting started with anything is just testing these different materials, like a scientist and a cook in the kitchen, and seeing what these things can potentially do. So I'm gonna put these aside. This is the gesso. It's still a little bit wet. It doesn't take long to dry, maybe 15 minutes or so. I tend to put things in front of a blow dryer or a fan to dry things.

Class Description

Are you interested in working with acrylic paints but not sure how to get started? In this course artist and illustrator, Mary Jane Begin will introduce you to the world of acrylic paints. This class is perfect for beginners looking to learn the basics of the medium in order to begin a painting practice. By the end of this course you will be equipped with the know-how to pick up a brush and start experimenting with acrylics!

In this class you’ll learn:

  • All about acrylic paints and how they work
  • Which brushes and papers to use with those paints
  • How to begin making simple marks and shapes to familiarize yourself with the medium 

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anshu priya

Very thorough . perfect for someone who wants to start painting with Acrylics.


Nota review but a suggestion. Use a table knife to remove paper from bloc. No curling of edges.