making traditional gesso

the ingredients - rabbit skin glue and chinese white pigment powder (zinc oxide, with lovely other names such as philosopher's wool, and flowers of zinc)

warming the rabbit skin crystals

I really need a sifter...      


sanded to a fine smooth finish in between many coats

the finished pieces - ready to silverpoint



I've been rather busy in the studio lately, piecing together more exhibition work for October.  Though it sounds like a while away, my ever scary looking 'to do' list tells me I only have 11 weeks left - hmmm. 

Anyhow, I thought I'd share a study drawing I've been working away at on the couch late at night.  It's a study for the technique of silverpoint drawing, which I'll be incorporating in my exhibition pieces. 

This is primarily a Renaissance drawing technique, using a fine silver 'pen' (it's really just a piece of fine silver 2mm rod) to impart a mark on a painted surface.  It works with fine gold and many other metals too, but silver has a lovely grey colour and will oxidise and darken over time (a long time!)

Why not use pencil you say?  Well, apart from me being a bit of a stickler for all things old timey, and the technique fitting conceptually within my exhibition work, it's a really beautiful medium to use.  It requires a very slow build up of metal, going over and over a line to build up the darker tones.  It actually takes ages to build up the tonal work, but because it's so slow, you can control the tones so much more accurately than pencil - no eraser necessary!

The painted surface I'm using is a traditional gesso - not acrylic - and I have to 'cook' it to prepare it, from a mixture of china white mineral powder, and crystallised rabbit skin glue (yep, it's not for the vegans among us sorry, but you can just use plain old acrylic too).  The benefit of this traditional gesso is it's authenticity (this is what Da Vinci used too), it's naturally slightly ivory colour, and many layers built up and sanded in between creates a smooth porcelain-like finish like nothing else.

 Now, I really need to put this away and work on the actual exhibition pieces...



la luz

Amazing light this afternoon, captured on St Georges Rd North Fitzroy...