Kind of Arcane Post about Painting

I got cabin fever in Heaven and a sudden urge to go to a city. I had no inkling WHAT city, but my friend Lois invited me to Colorado Springs. It’s not the kind of city I had in mind, but it’s comparatively close and the dogs are welcome, and I love my friends, so yesterday Dusty, Mindy, Bear and I drove up to the “city.”

I did a city thing. I went to an art supply store and bought “classic” gesso and a painting panel. The gesso is the sizing, or background, a painting is painted on. The gesso makes a surface that paint adheres to and, I’d even say, likes. Classic gesso is made with rabbit skin glue, gypsum and marble dust. It’s what the guys painted on back in the day, like several hundred years ago. It is different from most of what oil paintings are painted on now in that it absorbs the oil paint and makes a reflective surface. I don’t know, but I think the transition from fresco to oil painting may have led artists to want oil paintings to do what buon fresco can do. Buon fresco is painted on wet plaster rather than dry, so the paint becomes part of the plaster. Since gypsum and marble dust are crystaline, the paint reflects light.

Back in the day, painters painted on panels not canvas or linen. Sometimes canvas or linen was glued onto a panel, but most of the time they painted on gessoed wood.

The gesso requires work to prepare, and I don’t know how it will come out. I’ve been painting on pre-gessoed panels and discovered that I don’t have to glob on the paint ala the impressionists. There’s nothing wrong with the technique, but I like frescoes. However, fresco is an enormous project that requires more space, skill and muscle than I have. Anyway, I like the intensity of oil paint. I’ve gotten a bit of the best of both worlds with oil paint on the pre-gessoed panels, but this gesso — if I make it right and apply it correctly to the panel — might be even more fun.

This painting has both oil paint IN the gesso and ON the gesso. It was very interesting to do. It was the first oil painting I’ve done that wasn’t just paint slapped on a surface, and it was an accident. It was meant to be a different painting completely, but I realized about halfway into it (or what I thought was halfway into it) that the painting I was doing should be a watercolor, so I trashed this and got a piece of paper. 🙂 Then, later, I got this panel and tried to paint the sofa as practice. It came out so cool and surprising that I just went with it. 🙂



Oil paint on pre-gessoed panel

12 thoughts on “Kind of Arcane Post about Painting

    • Thank you — the painting has a hidden meaning, and I didn’t even figure it out until about two years after I retired. It’s a painting of me telling me to retire! 😀

  1. My mother, who never made it from oils to acrylics, was sure that linseed oil was a magic recipe for long life. It didn’t work for her, but a lot of oil painters have lived very long lives. Always worth a shot.

    She did the whole thing. The Gesso, canvas stretching, framing. It’s a pity she wasn’t a great painter, but she certainly tried hard. I think her problem was she tended to paint like her last teacher and never found a style that was hers. My son has some of her paintings. There was one she did of me I wish I DID have, but it seems to have vanished from the world.

  2. I actually don’t know much about painting but I love that I learned something different from your post…I’ve only heard of painting on canvas, that’s how bad my knowledge is of what goes into painting…I only have experience with painting my parents house haha!…I hope you’ll be able to extend the lifespan of your pieces.

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