Thursday, September 3, 2009

Gesso and Spray Paint Backgrounds

I wanted to try another background that was new to me, and what better people to experiment on than my loyal readers and fellow swappers. I knew starting out that this background might not work, so my curiosity was piqued.

This background is made in two parts: one indoors, one outdoors.

Materials for the first step:


Foam brush

Substrate (I used card stock)

Craft sheet or other protective surface

Using a foam brush, glob gesso on the substrate. This is for texture.

Don't skimp on the gesso and try not to miss a spot. Although I tipped the sheet several directions, I found I had missed some spots when I took the dried sheets outside in the sunlight.

I laid these out on my floor mat in my main floor studio to dry. Because I had so much gesso in my brush, I was also able to gesso two pages in my heart AB.

I used a color adjustment in Photoshop to show how much gesso I placed on the card stock. The yellow in the photo is a by-product of the color adjustment and not part of the sheets or AB.

Bleubeard is not at all impressed!


After a full day and a half, the gesso was finally dry. I took them outside and used a clear sealer on the BACK (or non-gessoed) side. My rational? It would "waterproof" the card stock. Yea, right (sarcasm)!!

Materials for the second part:

Disposable bucket with opening larger than your paper

Various acrylic and enamel spray paints


Gessoed and dry card stock

Outside water source

Fill your bucket with water and put on your gloves. You really need gloves for this project. If you don't wear gloves, it will be like you are sticking your arm in a bucket of enamel paint.

Begin by spraying one color onto the water in the bucket.

Add a second color. You may need to face away from the water, or wear a mask as I ended up doing, because some of my spray paint got pretty potent.

Add a third color, then, if you need to, add a small amount of the first or second color.

Lay your card stock GESSO SIDE DOWN onto the paint in the bucket. That means the non-gesso, or back side is up. Because the paint and water form a barrier, if you get the card stock on the paint, it will lift off directly onto the paper. My paper was too large for the bucket opening, so my first piece got completely saturated, never got good coverage, and fell apart.

My second page didn't get complete coverage, but enough that I felt I could use it.

Here are the three sheets I made for the swap. The colors are ones that I get FREE at my Household Hazardous Waste "Swap and Shop," so I have a limited (and eclectic) palette.

I left these outside for at least an hour so they could dry properly. At least I have enough for the swap, since I can get four squares per sheet.

Lessons learned:

Cut the card stock smaller than the opening of your water bucket. The secret is to "kiss" the paper to the spray paint/water. You can't do that if your paper is larger than the surface it's trying to kiss. If you roll the card stock to get it in the pan, the water and paint will go to the backside of the paper (the non-gesso or up-in-the-water side), and you won't get good coverage on the gesso side. When you allow the card stock to get submerged in an effort to get good coverage, it quickly becomes saturated, even though it had been sealed. Once I bent one end about half an inch, I got better coverage.

I believe the idea is to not overlap colors, so spray each color in a different area. The top left sheet has layers and layers of spray paint, but it all overlaps and one color dominates.

It's probably not a wise idea to mix enamel and acrylic spray paints. I suspect some spray paint will work better than others (both brand and type), but I only used what I had on hand.

I was wrong about the gesso. It wasn't necessary to create all that texture. The effect I was going for was lost due to my heavy use of the spray paint. However, you must apply a thin layer or your substrate won't hold up.

0 thoughtful remarks: