Gesso: 'also known "glue gesso" or "Italian gesso" is a traditional mix of an animal glue binder (usually rabbit-skin glue), chalk, and white pigment, used to coat rigid surfaces such as wooden painting panels as an absorbent primer coat substrate for painting. The color of gesso was usually white or off-white. Its absorbency makes it work with all painting media, including water-based media, different types of tempera, and oil paint.'
I got a little gesso happy the other day.
Let me explain.
I had six wood panels around that are in various stages of being worked on. I am struggling with a direction to go in at the moment. I took all these paintings (plus about a dozen half-finished on paper) and laid them all out.
Was I really going to finish all these?
Why had I started them with such intent, only to stop at some point? I felt a certain level of embarrassment, like I was some sort of failure because these paintings were not finished.
It's because of that feeling of "ugh, I must've failed these paintings" that made me take a look at them again and realize, "Well, sure, maybe they are failures. But that's the point."
Maybe there was a skill I was trying to teach myself. Maybe I had a color scheme or a particular face or pose I wanted to try.
And for whatever reason, I didn't like what came out, or I wasn't interested enough to complete it. So I didn't.
It's kind of like trying a new recipe that doesn't taste as good as you're hoping. You eat some, but you don't make it every Tuesday. Because it's not that good.
That's what I realized about these paintings.
I tried whatever I wanted to try and, to me, it wasn't that good.
So, I did what any sane artist would do. I took my gesso and gessoed over six panels. A fresh start. Do-over. Mulligan!
Now I will try again. Maybe my new paintings will match my skill level now, and I just "outgrew" the level I was at before. I do feel like I am going through the equivalent of a kid's growth spurt. A snake shedding the skin. I learned to draw...
and I drew
But now that I practiced, what seemed challenging and innovative now seems, well...old.
Gesso Your Life, In a Good Way
It's not really like that in real life, though.
You can't just throw gesso over parts of your life you wished were different, or memories of times that are painful or when you were in a different season of life.
We don't just wake up one morning and decide to gesso our life and start over.
When we do.
Because every ending, every beginning, every new start, well it's just that isn't it?
We end something old and begin something new. They say you can't go back in time and change things. The past is the past.
So in a way, it's like you painted over those parts of your life. They're there, in memories, photos, maybe even writing. But you can't truly recreate them. You have to start from scratch, and create something new based on what you learned the last time.
I already started on three new paintings on those gessoed panels. It's not like what was there was terrible...and it's not like I couldn't have tried to fix or improve them.
But just like with life, I do have the choice to start over. And maybe that's the best choice sometimes.
Life Will Give You the Same Lesson Until You "Get It"
It's hard to know when to stick with things and when to let them go. But it also seems like that's half the stuff you're supposed to learn. You keep getting the same things happening until it finally dawns on you that it's time to make a new choice.
In art it serves the purpose of giving you a clean slate to start from.
And, in life sometimes you have to clean the slate as well. Hopefully it's because what happened in the past was a learning experience and you will do better than before.
But if you don't, it's okay, too because fate will surely step in to give you that lesson again.
It's not a failure.
It's a chance to do better with all the things you know now.
Thanks for reading!
Please leave a comment to let me know your thoughts! Have you ever wished for a "do over?" How did it all work out?