Preparing paper supports

Preparing paper supports
By Joseph Weinzettle

When I use paper for silverpoint drawing or oil painting, the paper needs prepared with a ground. First this requires glue sizing, which seals the support (paper, canvas or wooden panel) from the gesso ground and/or oil media.

300 lb press watercolor papers in stages of ground preparation, 2020

First, glue size is heated in a double boiler (a glass jar on seashells and pebbles within a pot):

Glue size in double boiler, 2020

The glue is then mixed with dry pigment powders:

Dry pigments for gesso, 2020
Mulling pigments for gesso, 2020

This mixture forms gesso. Traditional chalk gesso is brushed on the support while still hot. Layers of gesso form a durable drawing or painting ground on the support.

A gesso ground may be white or tinted. The first layer is typically transparent. Additional layers increase opacity.

These sheets of gesso-prepared papers (below, 2nd image) have yellow-ochre and ultramarine blue as added pigments (below). Tinted grounds provide a mid-tone for drawing and painting value studies.

Yellow ochre and ultramarine blue in gesso, 2020
Yellow-ochre and ultramarine blue tinted gesso grounds, 2020

Next week: Making oil paint

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