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Playing with Gesso by Lesley Wharton of Chocolate Baroque

Gesso by Chocolate Baroque
Making your own backgrounds for your projects is all part of the creative process, plus it is a lot of fun playing with inks and paints and experimenting with colour combinations. So this month I want to show you how to create two different types of backgrounds that can be the basis for stamping, used as part of a home décor or card project; or even adapted to journaling.  Both these techniques use greyboard, but you could easily substitute this for strong card, an MDF plaque or frame, a wooden art block or a journal page.

Masking Tape
1. Take a piece of greyboard cut to the required size, tear a strip of masking tape to a random length and stick it horizontally on to the board. Continue to cover the board with random lengths of tape, adding them both vertically and horizontally. You can use a combination 1” and 2” wide tape, but it is fine to just use one size if that is all you have. Overlap the tape in some areas and don’t worry about jagged edges, this all adds to the texture. Ensure you have covered the whole of the board and then trim to approximately ½” all round. 

2. Ensure you have covered the whole of the board and then trim to approximately ½” all round. 
Fold over the excess tape on the back, make sure there are crisp edges and neat corners. Use an old credit card, bank card or telephone top-up card to burnish the masking tape to the back of the board. Turn over and burnish the front to ensure the tape is completely stuck down. If you were sticking masking tape onto a journal page you could either fold over the excess onto the next page or trim off round the edges. 

3. Next cover the masking tape with a coat of white gesso and use a heat tool to lightly dry off. Depending on the consistency of the gesso you may need to apply a second coat. Heat setting the gesso can produce small blisters or make the masking tape bubble slightly. Again this will add to the texture. 

4. Once the gesso is dry and cold, add two pea sized drops of paint in your first chosen colour and spread around the board using the credit card/bank card. Be random with your strokes, go in any direction you choose, but don’t cover all the gesso. Heat set before moving on to the next colour.
5. Add another pea sized drop of colour on an uncovered area of gesso and spread around. Don’t be afraid to cover over the first colour, as you have heat set the first layer you will not get mud. You may find you get another shade of colour as the two overlap but this will depend on the type of paint you are using and whether or not you are using translucent or opaque colours.  

 6. Continue to add other colours, up to four different colours is enough, you may even want to stick to three. You can either continue to spread the paint with your old card but use your fingers too. You can target smaller areas and be more precise if you paint with your fingers. Don’t forget to heat set one colour before adding the next. Stop when you reach a point where you are happy with the colour combination. To add highlights to your background, or to lighten areas where you feel you have made the colours too strong or too dark, use your fingers to dab small amounts of gesso where necessary. Rub and blend to achieve the depth of white you require. Leave to dry or heat set.

7. Your background is now ready for stamping or stencilling on. If you are going to stamp images always use either Versafine on matte or chalk paint or Stazon for a more glossy type of paint. You can also stamp with gesso or you can stamp with one of the colours of paint you have already used for the background. And you can stencil with gesso too, as you can see in this background.

Die Cut Shapes

1. For this technique you need to die cut a selection of shapes from a decent weight of paper or cardstock - between 120 and 160 gsm is ideal, but you can also use pages from a dictionary or an old book, just as long as the paper isn’t too thin. The die cuts can be flowers, leaves, butterflies, birds, circle, hearts etc. Use shapes that add interest and dimension to the background.
2. Once you have chosen your die cuts - play around until you get a pleasing arrangement. If you are going to add stamping you may wish to put the stamp on to the board to give you an idea of space and composition. Take a piece of greyboard cut to the required size and glue each die cut into position using PVA glue. If you have leaves etc that need to be at the back of your composition then these need to be glued down first.

3. When all the die cuts are in position - leave to dry before covering the board and die cuts with one or two coats of gesso.

4. To add colour to your background use either a brush, your fingers or a wet wipe dipped in paint. Any of these methods will avoid tearing the die cuts, which could happen if using a card scraper. As before heat set each colour before applying the next. You can wipe off excess colour between layers with a wet wipe or smudge and rub with your fingers to get a more distressed effect. And don’t forget to use white gesso for highlights as before.

5. Once you are happy with your colour scheme you can add shading with either coloured pencils or try a charcoal pencil that you can smudge to give shadow areas. Finally stamp in your chosen image using either a Versafine or Stazon inkpad.

The beauty of both these techniques is that you can create individual and unique backgrounds that have a real ‘arty’ feel about them. And if the worst comes to worst you can always cover it all over with a couple of coats of gesso and start again. 

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