There's a 24x30 inch stretched canvas in my studio that could probably serve as a boat anchor. It has been gessoed-over too many times to count. It also sports a thick layer of texture created with a wall compound called Flex-All. This is my Experimentation Canvas and it has provided a working surface for many, many experiments in its lifetime. Which is to say that if it's ever hung on a wall it will constitute a safety hazard. That puppy is H-E-A-V-Y.
It didn't start out to be an experimentation canvas, of course. It started out to be a nice landscape or something (I no longer remember what) that I decided I didn't like. So I gessoed it over. And over. And over. By now I've lost count of how many paintings and half-paintings lie hidden under its many layers of gesso. Some turned out ok, some were mediocre and some were truly awful. All of them were the subjects of experimental techniques: dripped paint, weird glazes, scratchings and scrapings, unconventional substances and who-knows-what-else.
Somehow I've always found it easier to conduct experiments on this one (ridiculously abused) canvas. It's my dedicated sacrificial lamb. I never worry about creating masterpieces on it. I worry more about it falling and fracturing my foot. What I appreciate about it is the total freedom it gives me to try any technique I feel like trying with no concerns whatsoever. No hesitations about trashing an expensive new canvas or blowing through costly sheets of watercolor paper. Nope, I just get out the gesso, apply a coat or two over the previous experiment and voila! I have a fresh, clean surface on which to play.
Gesso is amazing. Slather it on a failed painting and it does away with your sins (an unfortunate acetone catastrophe comes to mind). It's absolution in a jar, capable of returning things to a state of purity. I love the stuff.
Nowadays I use Utrecht's gesso, which is very opaque and thick but can be thinned with a bit of water. Cheap Joe's is another brand I like very much. Both are excellent products and are good values for the money, but even a thin, runny gesso can provide you with the freedom to try new techniques. Just pull out a not-yet-varnished canvas you don't care for, hit it with some gesso -- any gesso -- and you're good to go! Have fun!
Due to the Corona virus, the Surface Design workshop has been postponed until this summer. The new date for it will be announced when the Art House re-opens.
JOIN ME AT A WORKSHOP
SURFACE DESIGN WORKSHOP FOR ARTISTS & CRAFTERS
I'll be teaching this one-day workshop on March 14, 2020 at the Art House! Learn to design your own unique papers and other materials for collage, card making, scrap booking, journal making etc. I supply all the materials. All you need to bring is a sack lunch and a beverage. Hours are 10-4; fee is $90 per person. Register online at acworthartsalliance.org/purchase-workshops/classes or call 678-543-5777. Act now! Seating is limited!