Playing with Gesso

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!

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Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. She now hosts and produces the Catching Health podcast and writes the award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.