This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
When the gesso is covered with a coating of gold, or gold leaf, transparent oil colours mixed with copal oil varnish give a very rich effect, reminding one of old Italian and Spanish leathers when gilded and lacquered. Much variety can be gained with the palette set with
Sap Green. Italian Pink.
Antwerp Blue. Crimson Lake.
Prussian Blue. Burnt Sienna.
Panel in Gesso. Designed and Executed by Walter Crane.
Allow the colour to run well into the hollows, wiping it off from those parts in high relief with a soft rag wrapped round the finger. When it is quite dry, another coat of the varnish is desirable, to prevent the air from discolouring the gold. The richest and most permanent work is gained by using gold leaf instead of bronzing powder. First prepare the gesso work with a coating of white lead. When dry cover it with gold size, and when this is in a tacky condition, apply the gold leaf (transferred leaf if possible), dabbing it into place with cottonwool or a soft brush.
Another way of giving to the gesso an old appearance is to grind some powder colour finely, and mix it with some prepared beeswax and turpentine, using a palette knife for the purpose, making it into a dark paste. First coat the gesso with wax; hold a hot iron close to it to incorporate them; put on the coloured mixture, using the iron again, and finish with the wax, polishing it with soft silk when it is set.
Gesso may he coloured with transparent oil colours, with the copal oil varnish as a medium, without any gilding underneath. When used in combination with painting on canvas, the result is extremely decorative. By treating the painting like tapestry, and the background and ornamentations in gesso, gilding and colouring the latter, the effect is gorgeous and most striking. This way of applying gesso was the principal means employed by the Italians in the decoration of their altar pieces, the gesso being used by them for halos, wings, jewellery, and other accessories.
Wooden ringer panels covered with tailor's canvas form a good ground for modelling ornament upon, the canvas not being painted at all, but gilded thoughout.
Walter Crane has practised gesso work with great success. The example given herewith was photographed directly from one of his small cabinet pieces, but without the glowing colour of the original it gives but an inadequate idea of the finished work. The effect is not unlike that of an illuminated missal, or of a fine, translucent enamel, with lustrous deep harmonies of splendid hues, if lacquers are used for finish. Yet, treated in pale tints, with just a suggestion of colour, gesso work can be made no less beautiful.
Decorative Panel in Pyrogravure (Burnt-wood Etching).
By J. W. Fosdick.
Two Designs For An Embroidered Cover For A Bible. By M. L. Macomber
For suggestions for treatment, see page 210.