Small Beauties of Everyday
Oils on Gessobord
by Stella Alesi
I paint exclusively with oils on Ampersand’s 2" Deep Cradled Gessobord™. I used to have my painting panels made for me by a friend, and although they were good quality, I could never get the ultra-smooth gesso surface I wanted without hours of sanding. Ampersand’s gesso surface is flawless and perfect for the precise work I do. These paintings, #147 Oranges and #136 Pyracantha clearly show the level of detail I am able to achieve on the smooth Gessobord surface.
On a table in my studio lie at least 100 tubes of paint, arranged like a rainbow in four rows. On the opposite wall hang color charts with paints that I use-—invaluable when trying to match a color from a photograph or my imagination. When I first began to paint, I referenced the color charts often to tell me which paints were transparent and which were opaque. I am the type of painter that shifts my color palette often. I enjoy paying close attention to the subtle differences in color and how those colors are created by the layering or glazing of transparent or semi-transparent colors.
Another artist’s product I find helpful is Daniel Smith Painting Medium for Oils and Alkyds that, when added to my paints, helps with glazing and also speeds the drying time of the oils. Most often the paints will dry overnight, which allows me to paint day to day in what I call “passes,” slowly building depth and color.
After I decide my subject matter but before I start panting, I protect the edges of my Gessobord cradle with painter’s tape. From there, I cover the entire gesso surface with the paint I have chosen as a base color. This base color sets the overall tone and also serves as the first pass toward building depth and deeper colors. I always mix at least one third Daniel Smith Painting Medium to this base color so it will dry quickly.
Once that base layer is dry, I pick about 10 to 30 paints that will make up my palette. My palette is a large piece of glass that sits on a nearby table covered with white paper. I like the glass palette for the way it feels when I mix the paint, and the ability to scrape away any old dry paint. I squeeze out a bit of each color in a big horseshoe shape on my palette and arrange the corresponding tubes around the wet paint. This saves me a great deal of time trying to locate those colors while I paint.
When painting from a photograph, I grid both the photograph and the Gessobord, which helps me with the enlargement process. It is important to make sure the grid lines are very lightly applied to the panel, otherwise they can be difficult to cover. One of the nice things about drawing on Gessobord, since it is rigid and has such a smooth surface, is how easy it is to get perfect lines when I do my initial “grid and sketch”; there is no bounce or stretch to contend with while drawing. These attributes let me achieve a higher level of detail for both the drawing and the painting process—more so than on any other surface or substrate. When a painting is complete, I remove the tape from the birch plywood cradle and have a perfectly clean edge. This way, no additional framing is necessary.