Gesso & Brushes January 24, 2017 09:31

I finished "Hope of Transformation." The original painting sold right away (yay!) but I have plenty of prints. I then went on to do "Love Spell," which was fun because of the bright colors. I used a very textured gesso layer on that one and found it was a bit harder to do much detail because of it. Should have known.

Poison Toad work in progress Harold Roth 2017I've been messing with gesso a lot. I love the smooth surface I get from using the clay scraper, but it is incredibly messy, so I decided to try applying it with rollers and then sanding. A foam roller made applying it a snap but left a very pebbly surface. I tried a mohair roller with a 1/4" nap next, which is supposed to leave a smooth surface. Not quite, although it left less of a texture. I also tried sanding between coats and sanding just at the end. The painting I'm working on now, "Poison Toad," I sanded just at the end. It's a pretty good texture for me. It's enough to grab the paint and counter brush strokes (I like to paint smooth) but not so much that it interferes with details, like the pebbly texture of the foam rollers did. So that's positive. The rollers also make it much easier to gesso up a wood panel, which is what I've been using in the Vessels series.

For several years now I've been using Escoda synthetic brushes, which I switched to while still painting with watercolor on the recommendation of a post in an art forum. I used very expensive Wiinsor & Newton Series 7 sable brushes all my painting life up until that point. Escoda Prado synthetics don't hold as much water, but wow do they ever hold a point. Once I changed over to acrylics, I began experimenting with brush shape and find that now I really like brights. For those who aren't familiar with brush terminology, these have a square shape rather than the rectangle of a flat. They are great for pushing paint around and for "smudging" it, which I like to do. I do wear them out quickly, so I tried Escoda's synthetic mongoose brushes (Modernista) when I began "Poison Toad." These are much stiffer and they are flats rather than brights, but they work pretty well for my technique. I ordered the smaller sizes to try for details.

I also decided to try Golden's Sandable Gesso, which is made for stiff surfaces like wood and panels. I like painting on wood boards, although they are 10% heavier than canvases, which means higher shipping, especially for the larger sizes. Because of that, I also sent for some GAC 400, a fabric stiffener, to use on the back of gessoed prepared canvas. This might make them stiff enough for me to feel more comfortable with. If not, I might go ahead and try stretching my own canvases and using the fabric stiffener on both sides before gessoing. This should make them very stiff. But I hope that a couple coats on the back with stiffener and the usual 6+ additional coats of gesso on the front will result in a canvas that is stiff enough.