Sunday, 17 June 2012

How to Use Black Gesso in your Art Journal

Saturday I was with a private student and we talked about black gesso, the dark sister of the usual white gesso. 

Most art journalers are familiar with gesso. If you aren't here is a post called What is Gesso and Why Should I Care? 

Black gesso can be used like white gesso, as a base for paint. Like white gesso it changes the surface of the page and makes it easier to manipulate the following paint layers. Sometimes I use black gesso alone as a background.

 As you can see, it creates a very different mood. For this reason alone I would suggest you have black gesso in your box of art journaling tools.

Gel pens 'pop' nicely on black gesso. If you want to slightly change the colour of your background you can add a layer of another colour over the top. This can get you a very dark purple or blue-black. Gesso is naturally matt, so adding paint is also a way to make the surface a bit shinier.

On the left page I actually lightened it a bit with some purple paint with a bit of white added. It is still quite dark.

If you want a little respite from all the black darkness, you can use black gesso on only part of the page. I think I actually cheated on the pages above and added collage borders. But the one below was done using removable painters tape to make sharp lines.

If I remember correctly, I first painted the blue background. I didn't really like it so I used some tape to define the edges and painted a border in the black gesso.  Later I added a 'frame' drawn with my gel pens.

 In these pages I added the black gesso later. Sometimes I will divide a page into thirds and then paint either the bottom or top third with black gesso. I usually use the black section for writing.

Along the same lines, I also like to add shapes of black gesso on certain pages. Usually this is at a later stage when it seems to need 'something'. Mostly the shapes are rectangles but with the above pages I tried something a little different. You could use a stencil or just paint a shape freeform. 

Finally these are the pages I was doing with my student -obviously they are not finished. The black gesso rectangle that I added makes me think of a chalkboard. Have you seen the chalkboard paint? Such a cool idea.


Kel said...

black gesso is my all time favourite art supply :-)

and its so worth investing in the better quality ones as the cheap stuff usually dries quite plastic and shiny, which defeats the purpose entirely!

Zom said...

I hate cheap gesso. But I confess my black is the cheap variety. I bought it a few years back and haven't used it up yet. Gloppy and takes two coats, but at least it isn't shiny.

Unknown said...

you ar really inspiring

Natasha said...

I only used cheap gesso up until recently when I bought some expensive stuff. I won't go back now, the difference is much bigger than I imagined. Though I also want to experiment with making my own. I made some with plaster of paris and I didn't think much of it.

I love black gesso and the depth it brings out in the paint. I need to play with it more.

I also like clear gesso, though I am stingy with that at the moment because my bottle is nearly gone.

Kathryn Zbrzezny said...

I want to say a big thank you to you! Last summer, when my vacation began, I purchased black gesso with lots of ideas in my head...but then forgot them, I guess, because I look at the barely touched jar, and don't know what to do with it. Well now I do and I am inspired! Thank you! My new summer vacation begins in a week, and I will open my jar of black gesso and play in my art journal!

Zom said...

Natasha I haven't bought the clear gesso, I don't know what I would use it for in my AJ. How do you use it? In my studio work when I want clear I just use the matt medium.

Kathy I am glad if I gave you some ideas. I am liking my black gesso more and more. I still have this idea in the back of my head to do a black gesso journal.

Unknown said...

Gosh, Zom - thanks for sharing these inspiring pages, and reminding me of the wonders of black gesso which is locked up in my studio tonight 9 miles away in town... oh well, tomorrow is another day! xxoo, sus

Kel said...

i recently bought some clear gesso, but am struggling with making it work
it seems to have a very grainy texture, not smooth and it did not take the image transfer at all

if anyone has hints and tips on using clear gesso I'm all ears

Mary said...

I've never used gesso, but I will definitely try the black gesso. I do love the chalkboardiness of it. And your journal pages are amazing!

Alison Mackay said...

I love the way that doorway really looks like it is set in your page. Amazing.
I have a whole black gessoed double page waiting for something to happen on it, I'm not sure what. Thanks for the ideas.

Unknown said...

I recently bought some Golden black gesso, but just haven't used it yt. Thanks for the ideas.