How to Prime a Canvas using Gesso for Acrylic Painting

how to gesso a acrylic painting

What is gesso?

Gesso, pronounced ‘jesso‘, was traditionally used to prepare or prime a surface so Oil paint would adhere to it.

Gesso is the same as a primer, as in ‘pre-primed canvas’.

It is made from a combination of paint pigment, chalk and binder.

Traditional Oil ‘glue gesso’ was made with an animal glue binder, usually rabbit-skin glue, chalk, and white pigment, usually Titanium white.

Gesso is usually white or off-white and is used after you have sealed the raw canvas with a coat of size (see: the Trouble with Oil)

It creates a surface that is both absorbent (particularly useful for ‘dead’ colouring with oils) and has a ‘tooth’ (texture) that allows paint to grab onto the surface…

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How to Paint Over an Acrylic Painting

Should I paint over my acrylic painting that hasn't worked?

“Take encouragement from the thought that you may learn from honest failure than from mild success”
Solomon J Solomon – British Pre-Raphaelite painter

It’s the debate with yourself that never ends…

Should I paint over my painting that’s not going to plan or start again on a fresh canvas?

How do you weigh up the time you’ve invested, the cost of materials and all the emotions versus starting again…. it’s almost too much…

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The Rule of Thirds in Landscape Painting (video)

Video Transcript – How to use the ‘rule of thirds’ in your landscape paintings

Morning class, today we are going to have a quick look at composition and the rule of thirds.

Even though it’s called a rule it’s really just a guide to help you compose a picture that looks natural within a rectangle, or square, I find it always works best though within a rectangle.

All you do is split your page into thirds, horizontally and vertically. And these bad boys on the intersections are what we’re looking for…these are what we can align key points of interest to pump up our paintings to guide the viewer into where we want them to look…

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The Secret of Good Composition

The Secret of Good Composition

‘And after drawing comes composition. A well-composed painting is half done’
Pierre Bonnard

Imagine a lovely drawing of a house with a path meandering up to it, trees either side in careful balance, a classic landscape scene that just ‘works’.

Where is this masterpiece? The Tate? The National?

No, stuck to your fridge door, created by a 4-year-old.

As a young child, visual harmony and composition comes naturally.

Children seem to start out with a near perfect sense of composition if you have small children or are lucky enough to have any of your old drawings you created as a child I’m sure you’ll find the same to be true.

Younger children see the edges of the paper as a whole frame to fill, and they often fill them with a great sense of balance.

When you start to grow up, you know – really old like 9 or 10, that’s where the drawing problems start. The focus shifts and is aimed away from composition to the pursuit of something far more important, where the accolades are huge and respect even greater, the quest for the ultimate prize …… realism.

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How to Balance Warm and Cool Colours

warm and cool acrylic painting colours

Your colour choices can make or break a painting.

Understanding warm and cool colours can instantly give your paintings a sense of harmony.

In the above Titian painting ‘ Bacchus and Ariadne’  Titan has almost split the colour wheel in half in his composition. If you were to put a diagonal line straight through the painting, the cool tones of the blues, greens and purples would be dominant on the left and the warm tones of reds, oranges and yellows on the right.

If you squint your eyes at the picture the general colour scheme is based on blue and orange which are opposite each other in the colour wheel so are known as complimentary colours

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The Importance of Contrast in Painting

contrast in painting

Contrast is really important when you’re starting to learn how to paint.

A good knowledge of contrast in drawing helps significantly because you will have learned the value of light and dark.

If you are coming from a non-drawing background, you will have to be more aware that to make a dramatic painting “contrast is king”, rather than trying to add a bright colour to lift the painting…

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Getting Started: Facing a Blank Canvas

Getting Started: Facing a Blank Canvas

“An artist’s career always begins tomorrow”
James McNeill Whistler, Artist

Starting art is like starting a diet; you buy a new gym kit…your canvas
You sign up for the gym, … your new brushes
You sit down and have a cup of tea and slice of cake because it’s all been too much.
Sound familiar??
If you think you’re the only one struggling, think again…..

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Getting Started: How a Prepared Canvas can Drastically Improve your Painting

Getting Started: How a Prepared Canvas can Drastically Improve your Painting

The number one mistake all beginners make is buying a pre-stretched canvas or canvas board from a discount bookstore and not unwrapping the cellophane from it.

The number two mistake is leaving the canvas white when they start painting.

The first technique I always teach in painting (and a technique I use on 99% of my work) is to cover the white canvas with one solid paint colour which is called a ‘ toned ground’.

This is short for ‘toned background’ and is No. 1 of my painting principles.

It can be called a ‘toned ground’ or ‘coloured ground’ as it can be used in drawing and painting.

Using a coloured ground does a number of fantastic things that are not to be underestimated when starting to learn how to paint.

It can transform your paintings by making them look more professional, increase the speed in creating your paintings and give you a fool-proof method of creating a tonal mood in your work…

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Getting Started: Throw Away Your Small Brushes

Getting Started: Throw Away Your Small Brushes
Start with a broom and end with a needle.

It’s an exaggerated way of saying start with big brushes then end with a small one.

When starting painting, choosing brushes in this way can really help because it stops you focusing on the ‘interesting detail’.

Using large brushes to lay down bold and decisive strokes, helps to alleviate self-inflicted pressure to make the painting look finished too early on, in reality this never happens it’s like trying to re-landscape your garden without digging up the soil, you have to make the mess first to finish with the flowers.

How big is big?

If you use large brushes to begin your painting, you’ll develop brush handling skills, techniques and a huge variety of marks that can be achieved with one brush rather than relying on another specialist brush to fix the problem.
For example, if I was painting a 30 x 40cm canvas, I would start with a brush 2-4 cm wide.

What type of brush should I use?

One of the biggest stumbling blocks is indecision, if you only have one brush and two colours you’ve got no option, you just have to start.

I love filbert brushes, they are so flexible to use the hairs are quite long, arranged as a flat head and tapered to a rounded tip see: A quick way to understand brushes.

It’s always better to start with fewer brushes than to amass a whole drawer full and not start at all! 

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Getting Started: A Quick Way to Understand Brushes (video)

Getting Started: A Quick Way to Understand Brushes (video)Mink, Squirrel and Pig

This may sound like the beginnings of a fairy-tale but it’s a quick and easy way to think about brushes. Most traditional brushes are made from animal hair and the quality of the brush – its bounce and feel, is dependent on the quality of the hair used.

Mink hair makes ‘Sable’ brushes and pig hair makes ‘Hog’ brushes…

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Getting Started: Choosing a Painting Surface for Acrylics – Getting your Absorbency Right

Getting Started: Choosing a Painting Surface for Acrylics - Getting your Absorbency Right

“A great artist can paint a great picture on a small canvas.”
Charles Dudley Warner

Your choice of what to paint on can alter the working properties of the paint and give you a different painting experience but it needn’t be a mystery, if you follow a few simple rules.

1.  Acrylics straight from the tube are the most flexible medium, so can be painted on anything – paper, canvas, cardboard, metal…literally anything.

2. Oils are more tricky, so have to be painted onto a properly prepared surface (see: The Trouble with Oil) I recommend a prepared canvas or prepared board.

3. Watercolours work best on paper, I recommend Cold Pressed paper (confusingly also referred to as NOT paper meaning ‘Not’ Hot Pressed). It’s ideal for less experienced painters as it’s more forgiving. (There is a huge range of Watercolour papers see: How to choose Watercolour Paper).

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8 Tips to Help You Make a Killer Bespoke Canvas

bespokecanvas

Off the peg or bespoke? The dilemmas of a modern man.
Choosing a canvas is much like deciding between Savile Row, the high street or knitting your own!

With Bespoke you get:

Neat edges on the back, staple free sides, a choice of fabric, a choice of finish (unprimed, sized, oil-primed) an exact choice of size, a choice of stretcher bar thickness and a skilled craftsman making it for you, all coming with a premium price tag.

High street you get:

Neat edges on the back, less robust stretcher bars, not as heavyweight canvas, machine-made but a very reasonable bill.

Knitting your own:

Can be a bit of a headache! But you do get a choice of fabric, choice of size, choice of stretcher bar and it’s a very economical way to achieve what you want, if working on a lot of canvases the same size. Huge flexibility in finish mixed with the glow of satisfaction when stretching your own canvas…

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How to Choose Watercolour Paper

How to Choose Watercolour Paper

“First of all respect your paper!”
J.M.W.Turner

Ever walked into an art shop and felt daunted by the sheer volume of paper choices with confusing names, got flustered and just walk out?!

You are not alone!

Choosing the correct watercolour paper doesn’t have to be as complicated as Manufacturers seem to make it…

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The Trouble with Oil – Preparing a Canvas for Oil Painting

The Trouble with Oil - Preparing a Canvas for Oil Painting

Oil paint can be an amazing substance to work with, from creating quick sketches outside to photo-realistic portraits. Because oil paints take a long time to dry, they give you the flexibility to be able to tweak, alter, soften and blend resulting in lovely muted, smokey subtle paintings.

If you decide that you’d like to give oils a go, then my recommendation would be to start with a pre-sized, pre-primed ready-made canvas to paint on.

Why?

Well, the “oil”  in the paint can create a few issues over time you should be aware of.

We’ve all heard of “fat over lean” and paintings cracking but don’t be scared…

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Getting Started: What are Different Types of Paints made From?

Getting Started: What are Different Types of Paints made From?

From Oil to Egg Yolks

Same pigment, different binder.

In a nutshell, most paints are made by mixing dry paint pigment together with a wet binder.

The difference between the type of paints, for example, oil paint, acrylic paint or watercolour is simply due to the different type of binder used.

So the binder could be oil, acrylic polymer or even egg yolk and it’s this – that gives each paint its characteristics…

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