I was speaking with a technician at Golden Artist Colors the other day about World Watercolor Month and the various absorbent surfaces Golden produces. At that time, she mentioned that you can always watercolor over gesso as well.
Hmm. I feel like I’ve heard that before, but really, does that work? I think of acrylic paint as plastic, and water just beads up on plastic, right? Wrong. This painting started out as a watercolor fail on 140 lb. Arches cold-pressed paper (5 x 7″). I had painted on both sides, and didn’t like either painting, just hadn’t got around to throwing it into my collage pile yet. I decided to see what gesso could do for me. I poured some out and started painting. I blurred some of the watercolor paint in the process, which I liked, so I left it alone. Then as the gesso started to dry (and I continued fiddling), the drying gesso even lifted away from some of the flower areas in the original watercolor. I actually thought it looked cool, so I didn’t add another coat of gesso to re-cover those areas. The first image was what I started with after allowing the gesso to dry for a couple of hours.
Next, I went right in with heavy body acrylic paint in Golden quinacridone magenta and M. Graham viridian. (Note: As a Dick Blick affiliate, purchases from these links will help to support my site.) Then I dove into my watercolor palette and added additional tones for an abstract version of my original “poppies in the field” painting. This reminds me of a quilt. I very much prefer creating the painted versions to the sewn ones. Painting watercolor over gesso does work. The Golden technician was right. It actually makes the watercolor paper a much more forgiving surface, easily lifted from and added back to.
I like the dreamy quality in this painting, with a combination of harder edges from the acrylic areas and softer, filmier tones from the watercolor paint. I made quite a few adjustments to this one, and will probably continue to refine it. But I kind of like the watery, bloomy areas I left in this, and not sure I’ll lift them all away just yet. The best part is I’m actually feeling a lot more upbeat about painting in watercolor every day in July now, as I can always gesso over any painting fails and have another try. It is definitely a different experience than painting on watercolor paper, but I liked it! I hope you do, too.
Happy weekend to all. Please take the time to do something that fulfills you, that makes you feel happy, down deep in your gut. You owe it to yourself. This world needs more joy, and more art! Let’s get moving, people. Shake thy tailfeathers! Peace.