Watercolor of a Los Angeles Theater: The El Capitan

The El Cap 31 x 25 Watercolor on gesso & paper

In a previous post, I mentioned experimenting with clear gesso on watercolor paper.  Quite a few folks emailed to ask why, and what I thought about the results, so here they are;

I like the way watercolor bleeds into white gesso, and I was curious to see if the paint’s granulation, and pigment density would be different with the clear gesso. I won’t be able to answer my own question fully until I set up a side-by-side gesso strip – one white and one clear. But for now, I totally enjoyed the way the clear gesso “drank” the paint, bled at the edges, prohibiting my being fussy, and allowed me to lift back to white, or add lots of layers for deep, rich values (see close ups below). 
If you’re like me, and you grid your paper and lay your drawing down in graphite before you paint – in advance, like 2-4 paintings ahead of time – clear gesso allows you to see your drawing if when you get distracted and spontaneously decide that you’d like to play experiment with some gesso on a watercolor. ;~)
Sometimes, I paint on a warmer white paper – not as bright as white gesso, and while I could tint the gesso to warm it up, I’d rather skip that step, and just use clear gesso on warmer toned paper, especially if I’m working in a series.
Painting on gesso is a little like painting on sand paper. I used a foam applicator, and slopped it on willy-nilly, keeping my strokes sort of vertical, over my drawing of the theater facade.  If you prep your paper with a thick layer of gesso, you get groovy brush marks – so when painting with a loaded brush, the wet pigment dives off the bristles and scoots into the narrow channels.  The grit surface slows your brushes down, but it’s porous, so it absorbs the pigments in a “you’re-not-in-control-of-this-part” way.  I can just imagine what the high tooth does for holding pasels (eye-brow wag & rubbing hands together).  I have one more non-gesso painting to finish, and then I’m planning another gesso piece. Since I wasn’t sure if I’d like the clear gesso, I bought a small quantity – 8 oz of Liquitex.  It was great fun, and I think I’ll keep working with it this summer. If you’re curious, give it a try.
8 oz of Liquitex Clear gesso is about $7
Close up: Watercolor – first washes over clear gesso on paper.
Close up: Watercolor – multiple layers over clear gesso on paper (and cat hair). 🙂


Yesterday, my lovely friend Laura and I hung our two-person show at Gale’s Restaurant in Pasadena, CA (see pics below). The artist’s reception is still two-and-a-half weeks away, but 40 original pieces are up & available. If you’re unable to have a glass of wine with us on July 29th, we encourage you to have a (delicious) meal at Gale’s and see the show in it’s entirety now.

A row of tall watercolors near the bar area at Gale’s.

Great Italian food, surrounded by original art – at Gale’s.

Art Quote

At the rate of almost one birth a year, the Vermeers’ had five or six children by 1661, three of four whom survived. The first children who apparently lived into adulthood were all girls – Maria, Elisabeth, Cornelia, Aleydis, and Beatrix. With an eventual eleven living children, Vermeer may well have pondered how to divide his energies; his slow production of paintings meant he completed only some three pictures for every child. The poet Yeats later put the dilemma as which to choose, perfection of the life or of the work? A ruthless genius may plump for the latter. A more difficult task faces the home-loving artist who tries for both.  ~Jonathan Janson

4 thoughts on “Watercolor of a Los Angeles Theater: The El Capitan”

  1. Your show does look wonderful, Belinda. Good luck from me too.
    I have experimented with the clear gesso in the past but wasn’t keen on the gritty feeling. Always meant to try it with mixed media, i.e. watercolour and pastel. Perhaps I will now.
    Lovely soft atmosphere your theatre has.

  2. I am definitely going to try this! Thank you. How thick a paper do you need to apply gesso? What paper do you usually use?

    Very nice painting of the theater – so much detail!

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