Traditional Gesso

I've been using acrylic gesso on small masonite panels lately, not having enough time to glue canvas to them and too cheap to buy pre-gessoed canvas panels and I'm finding the acrylic gesso is too slick.  The oil paint doesn't absorb into the surface enough.  So I bought some Gamblin Traditional Gesso.  It's a mixture of marble dust, titanium dioxide and rabbit skin glue.  It's been used for centuries on wooden panels and is more absorbent.  Just add water to the Gamblin Traditional Gesso and let it sit overnight.  Then heat it in a double boiler, don't boil it, and apply to masonite panels.

The gesso is brittle so it can't be applied to stretched canvas, but works well on wood or masonite (sanded first).  The panels need abou 4 thin coats.  It dries to a hard, smooth surface but the absorbancy makes the oil paint react very well.  Because the gesso is brittle it needs a solid base for support, so use 1/4"  thick board, not 1/8".  For bigger boards, 16 x 20 or bigger, you have to cradle the back of the board or give the back 4 coats to prevent warping.

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