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Old 04-06-2014, 07:23 AM   #1  
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Default Gesso or No Gesso?

I've been art journaling for almost 2 years now, and I've been in the same class for about a year and 4 months. Sometimes we use gesso, and sometimes we don't. I really like that it "seals" the other pages so the inks/paints/other media don't seep through. My best friend, who was an art major in college, hates gesso. Do you regularly use gesso? What benefits do you find when you use it? Any drawbacks? Let's discuss.
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Old 04-06-2014, 07:40 AM   #2  
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This was one of the most helpful videos I found re: gesso's properties and how it works with various media so that I can decide, on a case-by-case basis based on what I am trying to achieve artistically, when and how I want to use gesso and when I do not want to use any gesso:


To add to the gesso fun, there is clear gesso and black gesso (and, of course, you can color gesso yourself).
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Old 04-06-2014, 05:49 PM   #3  
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Very helpful; thanks for sharing. I have black gesso, but not the clear. I guess I'll be playing again tomorrow. I'll also try to post some photos of my art journal too.
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Old 04-06-2014, 10:04 PM   #4  
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It depends on the project and what kind of look I am going for. Sometimes I use Gesso, other times I will just lay down a wash of white acrylic paint and other times I won't use Gesso at all.
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Old 04-08-2014, 09:32 AM   #5  
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This wonderful book Collage Lab: Experiments, Investigations, and Exploratory Projects (Lab Series): Bee Shay: 9781592535651: Amazon.com: Books (which I have not yet completed) taught me how to use gesso for texture. The author of the book, Bee Shay, also had a companion Website to the book. When I looked at it just now, it appears to start with lesson six, one of the gesso lessons! Here's the Web site: CollageLAB
I did use the Web site companion when I was doing the lessons in the book and found it helpful.
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Old 04-08-2014, 01:07 PM   #6  
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Lindsay Weirich of thefrugalcrafter insists that ready-made canvases are already prepped and that gesso is a waste of money. She also says that gesso is just white paint. Comments?
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Old 04-08-2014, 03:24 PM   #7  
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I've heard that from Lindsay - frugalcrafter too. I usually Gesso my pages - I use an old credit card and quickly spread it around. I wish clear Gesso wasn't so darn expensive cuz I'd rather use that then white. I use lots of white Gesso when I'm going to spray and usually try to fully cover my page with it then.
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Old 04-08-2014, 05:25 PM   #8  
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Default Home Made Gesso

This thread got me thinking how expensive it is to keep myself in gesso. I agree with The Frugal Crafter you don't always need it as a primer, but I love the textures you can get with it. I like to mix it with paint and slather it around. So I Googled "home made gesso," and found several recipes. They all seem to be made with baby powder, although the official "tooth" ingredient is calcium carbonate (chalk/limestone). I'm going to give it a try this weekend.
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Old 04-08-2014, 11:27 PM   #9  
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Lindsay Weirich of thefrugalcrafter insists that ready-made canvases are already prepped and that gesso is a waste of money. She also says that gesso is just white paint. Comments?
Yes & No to Lindsay's view. Yes, most canvases are primed for Gesso. My DH likes to oil paint and he does buy canvases with no gesso so he can Gesso the canvases himself. Most canvases that are sold at Michael's, WalMart and big box art stores are usually gessoed.

Gesso is not really white acrylic paint, even though I do tell beginning Art Journalers to give their pages a coat of white paint especially to the AJ's that are just starting with a limited budget. Really a bottle of white paint for a $1 is a big difference than a the low end $8 bottle of Gesso. If art journaling is just something you want to try then you don't need to shell out big bucks for Gesso or the trendy art journaling supplies. That is what a lot of this is a trend right now. I have been art journaling for ages. I don't want to age me or anything but it's been a long time. I have beautiful journals and most of them do not have any of the "trends" in them. Art Journaling I feel is so overwhelming right now with so many art supplies I can see why it's daunting for those who want to delve into it.

White paint does give a different texture and tooth to pages than Gesso. Here's a good article from wiki to explain it better than me getting everyone more confused-

Gesso - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Gesso is good for covering mistakes like using it as a white out. It strengthens thin papers. My favorite thing to use Gesso for is to take any paper like a magazine ad and turn it into a canvas by giving it a coat of gesso. Also a lot of surfaces need a primer or your just soaking your paint right into the paper. Trust me that is a frustrating mess to deal with. Sometimes you want to soak your papers. It all depends on what look your going for.

I make my own Gesso too. My DH works at a company that makes paint and paint supplies for buildings. A lot of artists shop there so his work makes a lot of the mediums for the artists. His boss is very sweet and lets my DH & I have those things. We get the supplies to make our own molding paste, Gesso, etc... I do use calcium carbonate to make my own. I am blessed to have a more commercial grade version to make my own Gesso. The commercial grade version is grounded up more fine than what is sold at stores.

That is why I say yes and no to what Lindsay said. Yes, Gesso is needed in some art applications. I do think it's being touted a bit over the top in the art journaling field.

I hope I don't sound grumpy or attacking those who want to buy everything under the sun for their journals. I really support that too. Journaling is about what makes you happy. If buying Golden Gesso makes you feel proud of your pages do it. I am one of the girls that love to use my found objects and homemade art supplies in my journal. That is what makes me happy. I do have my pages with my expensive supplies too that I am so proud of. I am getting over an illness. Not grumpy at all.
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Old 04-09-2014, 01:06 PM   #10  
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Funny I made some homemade molding paste based on a video I found on Youtube - with powder, gesso and mod podge. I use it all the time. I've definitely learned with Mixed Media making my own supplies saves money!!
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Old 04-09-2014, 01:59 PM   #11  
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Funny I made some homemade molding paste based on a video I found on Youtube - with powder, gesso and mod podge. I use it all the time. I've definitely learned with Mixed Media making my own supplies saves money!!
I make air dry polymer clay substitute that I got from a recipe on these boards a couple of years ago. It's made with glue, baby powder, joint compound, liquid starch and something else I can't remember at the moment, and it really works to hold the detail from molds. I love these homemade brews. While I'm making gesso this weekend, I'm also going to try this molding paste made with my home made gesso. My craft group calls my kitchen "The Lab!"
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Old 04-10-2014, 05:06 AM   #12  
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Originally Posted by lylacfeyView Post

If art journaling is just something you want to try then you don't need to shell out big bucks for Gesso or the trendy art journaling supplies.
...
Also a lot of surfaces need a primer or your just soaking your paint right into the paper... Sometimes you want to soak your papers. It all depends on what look your going for.
What lylacfey said above is very well said and really captures some absolute truths about trends being pushed in art journaling right now and the use of gesso.

I have a couple of full journals that were done completely without gesso and a couple of books that have gesso on almost every page. The look of the pages is just 'different'. Lately I prefer using gesso because I am trying to use up my supplies and I find that I have a lot of cold press watercolor paper that soaks up paint and ink and add a 'muted' look to my work.

I have been also some pages on deli paper ( another trend). I definitely do NOT use gesso on the deli pages because the papers lose some of the transparency that makes deli paper so great to work with.

What I find funny about gesso is that the consistency is different between brands. I like Liquitex becase it is very fluid and easier to use to cover some elements of the page like lylacfey said above. It also dries pretty quickly which I like because I am impatient! Liquitex is relatively expensive for casual craft use like mine though, even with a coupon. I have also tried golden(thicker), art minds(very thick and gooey) and some other random brands. I recently bought a small jar of jerry's artarama branded gesso. It is like a combo between the liquitex and some of the thicker brands. It initially has the shape and consistency of a heavier gesso but once you spread it out, it thins out really quickly so I can spread a thin layer as needed or leave it to sit more thickly elsewhere. I have not tried making my own yet. Although it seems relatively simple, for me it involves purchasing yet another set of supplies, which I am trying not to do.

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Old 04-10-2014, 05:33 AM   #13  
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I used some of the pre-primed canvas boards years ago, did not add gesso or white paint and had problems, the inks kept disappearing over time. The pads were a mix of water based and permanent inks and worked fine otherwise. It was so strange, one minute the images would be there and look great then they were gone completely or extremely faded.

I'm not talking about a long period of time such as years either, but a matter of a month or two, sometimes even weeks. I even re-stamped the same images several time and had them disappear again. I haven't gone back to mixed media since but have been thinking about giving it a try again.


I'll be gesso-ing the fire out of everything though if I do, lol.
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Old 04-10-2014, 01:20 PM   #14  
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I usually gesso the gessoed canvas I buy at Mike's, it just holds the colors better and gives me a surface I prefer.
As far as journal pages go it depends on the medium I am using, the tpe of paper and the look I want
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Old 04-19-2014, 06:41 AM   #15  
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Have a love/hate relationship with gesso. I use it almost all the time except for vellum, transparency sheets, deli paper. It is a lifesaver for mistakes. But... I hate the feel of it when it drives. I do what I can to avoid any contact with it.
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Old 04-20-2014, 12:07 AM   #16  
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Have a love/hate relationship with gesso. I use it almost all the time except for vellum, transparency sheets, deli paper. It is a lifesaver for mistakes. But... I hate the feel of it when it drives. I do what I can to avoid any contact with it.
I don't like the feel of it either.
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Old 02-17-2016, 01:34 AM   #17  
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I have not used gesso yet for the simple reason that I am looking to buy a small jar to try it out, which does not seem to exist or I have not found it yet. So if someone knows this?
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Old 02-17-2016, 09:52 AM   #18  
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Amazon has a 4 oz. jar for $4.99 as an Add On item.

http://smile.amazon.com/Pro-Art-4-Ounce-Premium-Canvas-Primer/dp/B004OKRPD2/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1455735013&sr=8-5&keywords=gesso
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Old 02-17-2016, 12:41 PM   #19  
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I have not used gesso yet for the simple reason that I am looking to buy a small jar to try it out, which does not seem to exist or I have not found it yet. So if someone knows this?
Faber Castell has a small jar. It is sold at Michael's and in the aisle with the stamping/mixed media products.
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Old 02-17-2016, 10:06 PM   #20  
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The Faber Castell is also at SimonSaysStamp, no Michael's outside of the US. Wish they would do an online shop for overseas customers.
I used to buy books at Amazon but never hobby items due to overseas shipping. Will try to look into their terms of service international shipping hpbby items.
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Old 02-19-2016, 06:00 AM   #21  
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I bought a jar of the Farber Castell at M's a couple of months back and had to return it. the white foam piece across the top of the jar meant to seal the jar until purchase was caved in and the gesso was a funky yellow color where it was caved in. ICK! Even the girl who rung up my refund commented how nasty it looked.

I ended up with the Liqutex brand as it was the only other brand M's had at the time and it is VERY course and gritty. Great for some things maybe but not the texture I wanted for bible journaling. A couple of the ladies in my bible journaling group have the Dina Wakley and the Prima Basics brand and are much happier with them, far less texture.
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Old 05-27-2016, 06:20 AM   #22  
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Originally Posted by stampin stacyView Post
I used some of the pre-primed canvas boards years ago, did not add gesso or white paint and had problems, the inks kept disappearing over time. The pads were a mix of water based and permanent inks and worked fine otherwise. It was so strange, one minute the images would be there and look great then they were gone completely or extremely faded.

I'm not talking about a long period of time such as years either, but a matter of a month or two, sometimes even weeks. I even re-stamped the same images several time and had them disappear again. I haven't gone back to mixed media since but have been thinking about giving it a try again.


I'll be gesso-ing the fire out of everything though if I do, lol.
I've seen the same thing. Unless I buy an expensive canvas, I always add more gesso to the cheaper pre-treated brands of canvas. I was teaching a class and told all the students to add more gesso to their canvas and one person didn't do it. The project used a variety of mists, paints, and distress rinses and her picture faded after a couple of months but the rest of the class that added more gesso had no fading.

As a final step I use a Mod Podge brush to smooth out the gesso so there are no brush marks. Also, if whatever brand of gesso I'm using is too thick, I water it down.

After a couple of years of doing mixed media I've become a big fan of gesso because I never know what medium I'm going to use so I like having a good foundation. One last comment, if I decide I don't like how the color choices I can just gesso over it all or the ugly parts and start over. I love do-overs
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Old 05-28-2016, 05:14 AM   #23  
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I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one to have that problem. Other things I've made with those same inks on paper are fine 20+ years later. Paints etc, were fine just the inks disappeared.

Sure made me wonder what they primed those canvases with, probably don't want to know.




I've learned that multiple coats and light sanding are my friend when using clear gesso.
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Old 06-17-2016, 11:15 AM   #24  
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I bought a large piece of rice paper with embedded string in a criss-cross pattern for a mixed media altered book workshop. (We took all pages out.)

I cut a few pieces off to experiment with. I also sprayed one heavily with water to see if it would shrink like the artists' supply store person said it would. It didn't.

I painted pieces with different brands of watercolor, with and without clear gesso. On the ones without, watercolors went through to the other side and appeared just a bit less vivid on the right side. But they still looked sort of okay.

On the gesso'ed piece, the watercolor stayed on one side except where I missed a spot. (It was hard applying it evenly due to texture and strings.)

I used watercolors from Michaels (ArtLoft) which I continue to love (!), Sakura Koi, and just a couple Gansai Tambi colors since I wasn't going to bring them and had only had them a couple of days.

It turned out I used the rice paper to cover the book cover, did not paint it, and am glad I gesso'ed it for some protection, though maybe I'm kidding myself.

Like others said, to gesso or not to gesso is a question that depends on the paper, media - and mood. Am I lazy, rushed for time, etc. But being newish to all this paper stuff, I'm glad I experimented, since it sticks in my old brain more than if an expert had just told me to do it or not.

And sometimes the experts are wrong - like how I was supposed to prepare the rice paper or it would shrink. But it didn't. : )

Just my late take.

Last edited by bjeans; 06-17-2016 at 11:18 AM.. Reason: typos, clarification
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Old 08-30-2016, 11:58 AM   #25  
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I sort of get gessoing water color paper - it has a nice weight and texture that might be nice for something other than water coloring, but it seems really odd to me to gesso rice paper as that would totally defeat the qualities of rice paper that make it unique - but I'm probably missing something. It seems like you're working against the paper instead of with it, but maybe I'm just a paper-lover.

I'll probably have to do it to understand it.
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Old 08-30-2016, 12:11 PM   #26  
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I sort of get gessoing water color paper - it has a nice weight and texture that might be nice for something other than water coloring, but it seems really odd to me to gesso rice paper as that would totally defeat the qualities of rice paper that make it unique - but I'm probably missing something. It seems like you're working against the paper instead of with it, but maybe I'm just a paper-lover.

I'll probably have to do it to understand it.

Adding clear gesso to the rice paper I had (mentioned in post above) acted like a primer on a wall before painting.


It didn't add more texture to the already textured rice paper. It just gave the watercolors a base, so color didn't bleed through to the other side as much as the rice people without gesso. So the colors appeared more "true," less faded.


In the little experiment I did, the paper itself looked the same with and without the gesso. It felt just a little different, though not much.


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Old 08-31-2016, 09:03 AM   #27  
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Like others said, to gesso or not to gesso is a question that depends on the paper, media - and mood. Am I lazy, rushed for time, etc. But being newish to all this paper stuff, I'm glad I experimented, since it sticks in my old brain more than if an expert had just told me to do it or not.

And sometimes the experts are wrong - like how I was supposed to prepare the rice paper or it would shrink. But it didn't. : )

Just my late take.
I'm the same way so every now and then I will do a gesso session. I'll gesso canvas', watercolor paper, my journal pages (even thought I rarely journal), chip board pieces so that I have them ready to go. I have a tendency to do this chore when my creative mojo is on the beach with a margarita.

I agree with "expert" advice. I'll start with the advice and then I experiment with test pieces and do what works for me.
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Old 08-31-2016, 10:12 AM   #28  
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I'm the same way so every now and then I will do a gesso session. I'll gesso canvas', watercolor paper, my journal pages (even thought I rarely journal), chip board pieces so that I have them ready to go. I have a tendency to do this chore when my creative mojo is on the beach with a margarita.

I agree with "expert" advice. I'll start with the advice and then I experiment with test pieces and do what works for me.
A gessoing session sounds kind of zen on the beach. : )


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Old 09-14-2016, 06:01 PM   #29  
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Originally Posted by stampin stacyView Post
I ended up with the Liqutex brand as it was the only other brand M's had at the time and it is VERY course and gritty. Great for some things maybe but not the texture I wanted for bible journaling. A couple of the ladies in my bible journaling group have the Dina Wakley and the Prima Basics brand and are much happier with them, far less texture.
Stacy, I'm interested in Bible Journaling (don't have a journaling Bible yet, though - I have to make sure I'm going to DO it before I invest), and I've seen different opinions on gesso'ing in Bibles too! But it seems that if you ARE going to gesso in your Bible, you definitely need the Clear kind. I have some Dina Wakley clear, which she now seems to like better than the Prima brand, which was out of stock everywhere FOREVER! Sandy Allnock has a very low-cost (like $5!) course on Bible Journaling (she's also an amazing artist!) and if I'm remembering correctly, she doesn't gesso her Bible pages. I guess it depends what you're going to put on your Bible pages.

Since I'm mainly a cardmaker (and an SU demo), I have a ton of inkpads and such, but have also accumulated supplies for WHEN I start art journaling. I think I should try it outside of a Bible before, to get comfortable with it. I have the Dylusions Journal, a Canson Mixed Media one, and another one I can't remember the name of. I also bought a Gel Press brand of Gelli Plate - would I NOT use my art journal pages for pulling prints off a gelli plate? My general impression was that I'd use a thinner paper, then maybe put it in my art journal?

I know there are tons of Facebook groups for Art Journaling and Bible Journaling, but I'm not on Facebook (not anti-technology or anything, just don't want to be on FB), and I'm wondering if I'm missing out on a ton of inspiration and help about supplies, etc. Oh well, I'm not going to join FB just for those groups. I'm hoping that the same info is available on YouTube, etc. Rebecca Jones is going to have a Bible Journaling class soon, and I'm hoping it won't be expensive... <G> If you have any suggestions about resources for Art/Bible Journaling, please let me know!!
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Old 09-14-2016, 06:40 PM   #30  
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I don't often use gesso but when I do I only like to use the Liquitex brand. I use it because of it's smooth texture, which oddly seems to be a contradictory experience of others here. I use my fingers a lot when I work and that brand does not leave my fingers gritty or with a 'skin'. Same with their matt medium. I can just keep on working with other mediums. I only use clear medium if I'm going to use a water media on a coated page.

In my journals there is no right or wrong and I'll put what ever I like onto my pages. And while I wouldn't hesitate to use gesso or white paint however I felt like, I would hesitate to say they are the same. A quick experiment with both in the journal will reveal the difference and then you can decided when one is neccessary over the other, or not.
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Old 09-15-2016, 06:45 AM   #31  
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Soozie4Him, I'm not on facebook either! I have found plenty of inspiration and ideas here, Pinterest and Youtube. Just do a search for "bible art journaling: and tons of stuff will come up. Your next mission should you agree to accept, is to stop collecting and start doing!!

First thing you will need to decide is if you want to be able to read the pages of a bible or is it for art only and reading will be done in another bible. If you don't care then cautions about bleed thru are not as important. I wanted to be able to read the printed word afterwards. It is a trial by fire process, my friends and I just remind each other that there is only one who is perfect and we are not him Some inks lay nicely on the surface and do not bleed thru and others not only bleed thru but make reading the page it was used on near impossible to read. Accept the goofs and move on to the next verse.


Use those blank back pages to test things on first, you can cover over those tests later. The paper used in journaling bibles varies greatly, so what works in one may have different results in another. The bible I choose must have the thinnest paper ever, many of the mediums my friends use without bleed thru do bleed thru in my bible.


If you do other art journaling then give it a try on a few pages. When I met the ladies I now get together with, I had already done a few pages in my regular art journal and knew it was something I wanted to do more of.


FYI: Some of the ladies in my bible journaling group have the Prima, others have Dina Wakely and a couple of us have the Liquidtex brand clear gesso. Liquidtex is by far the roughest texture and no one likes it for bible art. The Wakley and Prima are close but we all agreed the Prima was a little smoother and the prefered brand as a result. They are also about the same price but the Prima is a larger jar/quantity so a better value.


Misstreez are you sure you aren't using the white gesso, I agree the white Liquidtex is very smooth which is why I was so surprised at how rough the clear was.
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Old 09-15-2016, 08:29 AM   #32  
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Quote:

Originally Posted by Soozie4HimView Post
If you have any suggestions about resources for Art/Bible Journaling, please let me know!!
My sister likes Stephanie Ackerman for inspiration for her bible journaling. Homegrown Hospitality: Documented Faith 2016

She also has some great information on mixed media

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Old 09-15-2016, 07:06 PM   #33  
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Misstreez are you sure you aren't using the white gesso, I agree the white Liquidtex is very smooth which is why I was so surprised at how rough the clear was.[/QUOTE]

Yes I was talking about the white gesso. I must of missed something, lol.


The clear gesso, yes they are coarse. But then I'd expect them to be. I'd only use the clear to add the tooth I need for something like pastels to grab onto. I have also have an 'absorbent ground' to prime a surface for water colours to play on. I rarely seal a page unless it's showing signs of over stickyness, in which case I'd use a wax.


I've been away from stamping and crafting circles for a while so I'll look into what everyone seems to be doing these days. There is probably a whole bunch of stuff and ways of using it that's new to me. I bought my first pot of Dylusions paint a week ago. Just one.
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Old 09-16-2016, 05:57 AM   #34  
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One of the coolest art journaling projects I saw in a video used black gesso. I didn't think I'd like it but colors and metallics popped wonderfully.

BTW, I used Golden's clear gesso on rice paper so watercolors would be more vivid by not bleeding through, and I don't recall it being rough. But the rice paper has texture, so maybe I'm dis-remembering. I'll apply some to a bit of paper to check.

ETA: I'm wrong; I used white. They also have a sandable Gesso that I was told can be sanded silky smooth but is just for hard surfaces.

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