The first time I used gesso was with what I then still called bloodsong. I don’t remember clearly but I don’t think I bought it especially for this project; I don’t remember using it for anything else, though. Before I tried it, I thought gesso was essentially white acrylic paint. What I bought to try it out was a comparably cheap one from Lefranc & Bourgois, which was explicitly suitable for paper. It was not the cheapest I could get, but definitely on the cheaper end. From the moment I first tried it on paper, I was in love with it. I love the heavy feel of the covered paper and the rough surface texture. The gesso I had was firm enough so that the brush left clearly visible strokes, and dries in about 30 minutes. Since then I have used it for almost everything I made: I paint with it in my big sketchbook that you can see above, I used it for chasing infinity, I am using it for soulsong, used it for ruled worlds, for absences, and for another project (erased) that I have not yet talked about here. And last week my 1l jar was used up. Empty. Easy, I thought, I’ll just buy a new one.
That turned out harder than expected, though, since I couldn’t find it here. I was willing to order it in Germany, but couldn’t find it there, either. Not knowing anything about gesso in general, I feared that my purchase might have been a lucky one, and other gesso might be totally different. And what do you do in times of despair? – Right, ask the internet. The internet told me that I was right to fear: many people swearing on one and only one gesso – but of course they couldn’t agree on which one. Also, I found out not all types of gesso are suitable for use on paper. And I found the opion repeated that cheaper ones are essentially white acrylic paint and one should settle for expensive brands. For many of those I was not sure they would be suitable for paper, though, and it would have hurt to pay for them and then find out they don’t work.
In the end I just settled again for comparably cheap: Windson & Newton. Galeria Acrylic Mediums. White Gesso Primer.
And I am rather happy with it. At first I thought I liked the other one better. Well, I still miss it. But I am getting more and more the feeling I might be imagining a difference where there is none. It also yields a nice, rough surface, and the same, heavy feel on the paper. I think I notice that it is a little less opaque and needs longer to dry, but as I said, I might be imagining it.
While I was trying out gesso, I also ordered a very, very cheap jar of black gesso by pebeo – just to try it.
Now I know what people mean when they say cheap gesso has a plasticy feel to it, and is more like acrylic paint than like plaster: The page painted with the black gesso feels kind of smooth. The whole thing reminds me a lot of chalkboard paint. Which is not necessarily bad, I am rather happy with both purchases. Yay! Worries and freaking unnecessary 🙂