Gold Gesso with Watercolors
Gold Gesso is both an acrylic ground and a water based paint that can be used with watercolor, oil and acrylic. Used as a ground, it creates a glow reminiscent of Renaissance-era work. In addition the gesso makes the paper tougher. It becomes easier to lift the watercolor off the paper. 300 lb (640 gm/m 2) cold press or rough papers work best. You can use a lighter weight paper but I find the heavier paper works better. I do not stretch the paper; if the paper curls at all I simply apply a coat of gesso to the back.
Stir the gesso well and do not shake, if bubbles form they will stay when the paint dries. I mix the gold gesso with water. This forces the gold to granulate on the paper, giving a beautiful textured look. It also leaves some of the papers absorbency so that color can still sink into the surface. The gold gesso, unlike other acrylic paint, has a tooth to it so it can grab the paint. Even with its toothy quality, the more gesso you add to the surface the slicker it becomes.
"it creates a glow reminiscent of Renaissance-era work"
By experimenting with the amount of water added, you can create different effects. You can premix, or simply mix both right on the paper. I use an inexpensive Hake brush to apply the gold gesso, but just about any brush will do. After I apply the gesso and let it dry, I draw on my image.
I then apply my color in layered washes. For this painting, I choose my watercolors for their granulating and staining qualities. I want to have a textured background for this, so I choose a mix Lapis Lazuli and Azurite.
For the flower itself, I use Quinacridone Coral, Green Gold and Quinacridone Gold. These bright staining colors do not granulate and add a nice contrast to the background. For my darks I use a staining non-granulating mix of Indigo and Sepia. I build up layers of color and easily rework areas until I am happy with them.
The DANIEL SMITH Scrubbie brushes work wonderfully and I have no problems with the paper coming up due to the thin tough layer of gold gesso on the paper. You can create many glorious effects with gold gesso. The most important rule is to remember to play!
About the Author
Allison Agostinelli is a Seattle artist. She is a frequent exhibitor and gives workshops and demonstrations at Daniel Smith.