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Saturday, January 28, 2017

My First Watercolor: With & Without Gesso

Using watercolor in Bible journaling

Isaiah 43:19a
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I've been Bible journaling for a year now. And always, always I've used the same old, safe technique:
first pencil, then Micron pen, then fill with Crayola Twistables or gel pens. It was safe. It was familiar.

Then one day I got it in my head to use paint. I felt bold and brave! I researched online and found out a few things. Like, if you don't want the paint to bleed through those fragile, frail Bible-thin pages, you need to prime your page with gesso.

So, I did! I painted both sides of the page. It was wet, messy and dried VERY wrinkly. I was so discouraged that I left that page alone for almost a YEAR. I didn't touch it, which was unfortunate because it was one of my favorite verses.

You can read about gesso and other Bible J supplies here.

So, fast forward to this morning. I was thinking that I'd started this here Bible journaling page to inspire others, but also MYSELF to try new things! So, I was going to be brave and give paint another shot... not just any paint... but that beautiful, translucent, runny wet WATERCOLOR!

I loaded up my new toolbox and set up shop at the kitchen table.

So, I was thinking I'd like to show what watercolor does to super-thin Bible pages. But what verse to try? Then I remembered one of my favorites. I turned to Philippians 4:8-9 and lo! That page felt... funny. And I remembered it was the page I'd coated with gesso all those months ago. I'd had the same plan to use watercolor on that page, but chickened out after it went all wrinkly.

But it wasn't too wrinkly anymore. In fact, it had been flattened quite nicely. So, then I got an idea to show you fine people the difference between watercolor on gesso and watercolor on a page that DIDN'T have any gesso on it.

Here goes.

I started by propping up my Bible with this totally professional set of kitchen tongs. Okay, laugh if you want, but getting your Bible to lay flat when you're all the way down in Philippians is no easy feat!

I began writing out my Bible verse in pencil. In hindsight, it would have been a bit more "PRO" to print out tidy fonts and trace them, but I'm lazy.

Then I tested out my old cheapy watercolors from who-knows-when. They still worked, although the yellow and brown were almost gone, but who needs those, right? I liked my first attempt (on the white paper), so I folded up some paper, stuffed it behind my gesso-coated Bible page (just to be safe, I mean no point in ruining the whole book of Philippians), and I started painting.

I'd read that less water=less bleed. So, I dabbed my brush on a paper towel. I didn't really have a plan here, and rainbow seemed like a good option, so that's what I did.

After the paint was all dry, I went over the words with black Micron pen. You can see the finished product as well as the back of the page. Not too much bleed-through. I call it a success!

Watercolor on a page primed with gesso.

The back of the gesso-primed page.

So, now it was time to try watercolor paint on another page that had NO gesso protection, a blank naked page. Flip ahead to 1 Timothy 4:16. I'd worked on this verse back in November and never actually colored it. Perfect! I could see if the Micron pens bleed when covered in watery paint!

I did another hasty rainbow-ish coat (remind me to think ahead a little next time). And you can see the bleed-through difference on the back.

Watercolor on a page WITHOUT primer.
(Also I painted on top of Micron pen, which held up great! No smears.)

On the left, the back of the gesso-primed page. On the right, the non-primed "naked" page.
You can see the gesso kept the paint from bleeding through (mostly).

All-in-all I would say, "Gesso for the win!" It really does keep the paint from bleeding too badly. However, it is very time-consuming. Lots of painting and drying. Then you have to get those wrinkles out. If there's a way to do that besides lots of time being smashed flat, I don't know how. The naked-page method, however, works okay too. But I might need to put stickers on the other side of that page.

Hey! That just means I get to try another new thing, right? :)

Want MORE Bible J Ideas? Check out my post on how to draw wreaths and laurels.

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