Creativity Workshop: Gesso You Know

In Bleeding Hearts (above; watercolor and gesso on paper, 30×30), Myrna Wacknov painted each part of the quilt pattern with a pastel color, then collaged her tissue paper over the sections.

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If you’re not producing failed paintings, you’re not growing. Even the famed artist Wayne Thiebaud (American, 1920– ) said that he was happy with only one in 12 of his paintings. His solution was to destroy the offending 11. My solution—a far less draconian measure—is to cover my failed paintings with gesso and start again. A gessoed surface solves a number of problems: It recovers bad paintings from the trash heap, provides a liftable surface for watercolor, creates an interest-ing surface to paint and allows for some exciting textural techniques. Knowing that you can always recover your paper by using gesso will take away the paralyzing fear of failure—and give you a good excuse to make an exhilarating mess in your studio. Tie on an apron and let’s get started!

To read the full text of this article, and get Myrna Wacknov’s tips for using gesso, pick up your copy of the April 2012 issue of Watercolor Artist magazine!

Rescue your failed watercolors by applying gesso to your painting surface. Use tools such as stamps, palette knives or even collage papers to introduce texture. Send a JPEG (with a resolution of 72 dpi) of your painting to with “Creativity Workshop” in the subject line and tell us about your process. We’ll choose our favorite paintings and publish them on our website. One entrant will receive a copy of the new title from North Light Books, Art Journey America Landscapes. The deadline for entry is April 20, 2012. Happy painting!

MYRNA WACKNOV ( is a practicing artist and workshop instructor specializing in figurative and portrait character studies. She attended Washington University in St. Louis and later finished her degree in painting and drawing at the College of San Mateo and San Francisco State University. She’s a member of the California Watercolor Society, the San Diego Watercolor Society and a signature member of the National Watercolor Society. She is represented by the Gallery Concord in Concord, California.



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