I started using something new recently and I thought I'd share the very early stages of this next painting with you as an example of the incredibly versatile medium: marble dust.
Yes, you can get it from most art supply shops.
|The Grace of Gravity - Work in progress, acrylic on gessoed* board. (53cm x 84cm)|
I've always painted in relatively thin layers and it does look pretty fabulous with oils but now that I'm working in acrylic the paint gets thinner, not thicker as it dries. (Here's a useful article on why oil paints get thicker as they "dry".)
The end result has been that my paintings show too much canvas texture and there's a definite "unfinished" feel to the glazes in some areas. Until now!
[Queue evil laughter.]
I thought about buying some acrylic texture paste but then I went and looked up the ingredients. Turns out it's just chalk, clay or some other stable powder mixed into glue; pretty much the same thing as traditional gesso, really.
Then I priced the ingredients and did a happy dance!
The background for this painting was just too much fun. First I primed with regular, el cheapo student acrylic, then I applied a layer of my beautiful new, home-made gesso-type-stuff over the whole surface with a pallet knife. After that I took all the little containers of leftover paint that I tend to hoard in tupperware (more on that later), and I toned the whole surface with random colours. Somehow they blended beautifully!
Then came the fun bit: I took more of my texture paste and scraped it kinda randomly over any areas that felt right. I don't usually paint intuitively so this was kinda like preschool. :D That gave me some super smooth and highly absorbent patches as well as some richly textured areas.
With that dry I started this underpainting. I really have only put down the very basic outline but I already adore the piece and I may end up adding very little to it.
* To make the paste/gesso** I mixed acrylic gloss medium with marble dust on a glass pallet using a pallet knife. You can use all sorts of powders to make this as long as they are inert mineral powders (not flour or other organic powders though, that would be bad). Just be generous with the glue, mix it thoroughly and don't put it on too thickly because it will crack. I like to make it a bit stiffer than my paint so that it goes on like plaster, this does make it very absorbent though so I'd advise sealing it with acrylic medium before you paint over it if the absorbency bugs you.
**For the pedants reading this, yes, I know that strictly speaking, gesso is supposed to be made from rabbit-skin glue but I have vegan friends and besides, acrylic polymers have been very well tested over the last 6 decades. Here's a link for making traditional gesso. Happy now?