Oil Primer Instead of Acrylic Gesso

In the Woods
20 x 16

This week has brought a revelation! Those are always good.

I've been flirting with the idea of painting on linen lately, but the price has put me off every time I research it. So I did the next best thing and bought some oil primer to apply over my usual cotton canvases. The canvases have to be gessoed first to stop the oil primer from destroying the fibers.   I know: I should be using rabbit skin glue instead of gesso, but I'm not there yet.  Talk to me in 6 months and I'll likely be using bunnies.

I spread the thick, heavy stuff on and then I twiddled my thumbs for a week while the canvases cured. Finally, I began to paint. It was amazing!

The experience is nothing like using a commercial canvas. The paint keeps its separate strokes more easily instead of melding marks together as happens on gesso, and the paint sets up much more quickly than I am used to. Using just oil as a medium, the paint was almost dry the next day. That's at least a day or two sooner than on gesso.

But the best thing - saved to last, as all best things are - is the colour. I've never seen the paints look so luminous. When I brought it in from the studio, my son thought it was painted on copper because it had that inner glow that copper paintings have.

I'm still experimenting with application of the primer because the first effort was too thickly applied and created a very slippery surface, but I'm loving it!


Denise Rose said…
That sounds very interesting to me. I prefer linen but you are right about the cost! Is there a particular brand of oil primer that you were using? There is so much "stuff" out there one could spend a fortune trying things out! I think your painting is also very luminous and beautiful!
Anonymous said…
Great post. Are you using Roberson Oil Primer?
Denise: I'm sorry that I neglected to respond to your comment. But here, better late than never, is the answer.
I use Gamblin's oil primer, applied with a long, butter-knife shaped palette knife.

Thanks for the comment, anonymous!
Chris Open said…
Hi Ingrid
I've been painting on WN canvas boards and have also made some myself, 1/ muslin on MDF prepared with 3 coats gesso + sanding, 2/ MDF without muslin, prepared with 3 coats gesso + sanding. But now I feel the need to try canvas and so I read this post at exactly the right time! I've asked Bird and Davis, canvas suppliers here in the Uk, to send me some samples, and then I hope to take the plunge and start painting big - well, bigger than 12x10"!
Thanks for the blog post. Very useful.

Chris Open.
Prepare yourself, Chris: you won't be satisfied with your surface EVER!
I currently have many types in my studio: aluminium with and without gesso, birch with sanded gesso and oil primer, and several different textures of oil primed linen from fine to coarse. And still I yearn for the "perfect" surface.
However, for me, I think a medium textured, oil primed linen has become the nearest thing to perfect that I can find. You should try some linen in your experimenting. Make sure it's oil primed rather than "universal" primed.

Happy painting!
Chris O. said…
Thank you Ingrid. I'll let you know how I get on.