We’ve been playing quite a bit in drawing class this past month. At least, it feels like playing to me. Playing to learn, as my friend Lucy would say.

Our medium was gesso.

Gesso (Italian pronunciation: [ˈdʒɛsːo] “chalk,” from the Latin: gypsum, from Greek: γύψος) is a white paint mixture consisting of a binder mixed with chalk, gypsum, pigment or any combination of these.[1] It is used in artwork as a preparation for any number of substrates such as wood panels, canvas and sculpture as a base for paint and other materials that are applied over it. From Wikipedia


I’d never played with gesso before. I liked it a lot.

Our outside assignment was “Exploring the Ground.” We each got a 16″ square birch plywood panel and had to “explore various ground and surface alterations.” We could work on raw wood; apply gesso and sand it in between coats; apply paper or other materials into the gesso … whatever we came up with to alter the surface. The panel could be divided up into as many sections as we wanted. The goal was simply to explore. Here’s what I got:

Exploring Ground

Exploring Ground

Exploring Ground

Exploring Ground

I was going to describe each step of my personal exploration, but decided you might like to do some exploring of your own and try to guess my various techniques. Besides, it’s been a few weeks since I completed the assignment and I can’t really remember all of them. Isn’t that appropriate for a blog about a baby boomer getting an art degree?!

I’ll end with a wide shot of the entire panel.

Playing with Gesso

Our next outside assignment is a structured drawing.

“Using cardboard as a base create a freestanding or wall hung work that involves multiple parts and the idea of the door or passage as metaphor.”

I’m going to build a bookcase out of cardboard. That’s all I can say for now. Wish me luck!

[GARD align=”center”]

Categories: Blog


Solange Kellerman · March 18, 2014 at 11:16 am

hum, makes me want to do leaf prints on a tinted gesso. Love these.

William Covington · April 16, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Hello – does coating Birch Plywood with Gesso seal the surface of the plywood?

I want to glue photographs to Birch Plywood and I am thinking that Gesso would make a good base to accept glue. What are your thoughts on using Gesso on Birch Plywood as a base to accept glue?

Thank you.

    dianeatwood · April 17, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    I think it would work fine to glue the pictures using Gesso. I used it to glue down a piece of origami paper on my project. As for sealing, yes Gesso should seal the surface. I think you will need about 2 to 5 coats and if you want a nice smooth surface, sand each layer once it dries.
    Have fun!

How to Prepare a Canvas Using Your Own Gesso Primer | Zen School for Creative People · June 17, 2016 at 9:09 pm

[…] As a treat, here is a great post by Diane Atwood.  She shows us the way Gesso can be used in different ways to create unusual and unique works of art.  http://mylatestart.com/playing-with-gesso/ […]

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