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Old 14-11-12, 06:08 PM
janewt janewt is offline
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Default Repairing gesso

I am at an early stage of an ET painting. In scraping off a layer of paint I accidentally put a small hole in the gesso . How do I repair this?
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Old 15-11-12, 04:34 AM
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Koo Schadler Koo Schadler is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Alstead, NH & Zirahuen, Mexico
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Hello Jane,

Totally a drag. However after painting in tempera for many years, I've learned (through lots of first hand experience!) that pretty much anything can be repaired. Happily, I never freak out anymore when something undesirable happens - just heave a big sigh and move on to the task at hand...

Here's how I would do it. Take an extra, blank, true gesso panel. Put a small puddle of water on a corner and let it sit for a bit, so that the gesso softens. Take a palette knife and work the surface back and forth until you work up a little pile of gesso "putty". Fill in the hole. Depending on the depth, you may need to apply more than one layer - whatever it takes to not only fill the hole but to raise the fill a tad above the surrounding board. As you know, tempera is a thin, "telegraphic" medium, meaning that textures telegraph through - you don't want even a hint of an indentation or it might show up in the paint layers that are to come. So you want enough gesso in the hole to allow yourself, once the repair is dry, to sand it even and flush with the surrounding gesso. Sand carefully and attentively! (and, if possible, with a board, even a mini one, to keep your sanding flush.)

This repair isn't that hard to do, but frankly not a perfectly archival solution. Starting with a fresh batch of gesso (versus rehydrating an old panel) might make a wee bit stronger of a repair, but even that would not be ideal - because ideally (according to conservators that I've spoken with on this matter) it is best to apply all of your gesso layers in one session - that creates the best bond between them. But archival is a relative term. Depending on the size and depth of your hole (a small hole being preferable, of course) I would expect such a repair to last for a long, long time...

Good luck!!

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Old 15-11-12, 11:51 PM
janewt janewt is offline
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Thanks Koo! I'll give it a go. I'm not in a panic. Somehow I am being able to see each set back as a new opportunity for learning. I must really love this medium as I've never been particularly good at remaining so even-keeled!

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Old 21-11-12, 03:21 AM
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Bron Bron is offline
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Location: South Bend, IN
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Good, quick repair, and since hide glue (RSG, etc.) becomes solid though the loss of water, should be just a touch weaker, and quite archival.

If you prep the surface, i.e. roughen, which the damage already did for you, and maybe a touch of moisture before the fill, it should stick. There are plenty of examples of formed and carved gesso elements from the "golden era of ET", that could not have been applied in the same session.

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Old 27-11-12, 11:06 PM
janewt janewt is offline
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Thanks for all the good advice. The repair was a success!
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Old 01-12-12, 06:24 PM
arbrador arbrador is offline
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: USA
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Default repairs to gesso

Wonderful idea Koo! I'll try that next time. I am an ET painter who likes to scrub and correct a lot. Well, I don't really like it but it seems to happen to me. I keep a small jar of gesso in my fridge at all times. When I need to repair I warm some of the gesso, sometimes just put a teaspoon over a burner on the stove and voila a little bit of liquid gesso. It does not seem to rot in the fridge. I fill it in pretty much as Koo says, piling it up a bit. Mine is a bit runny but it seems to work.
But I'll try Koo's method next time.
Lora Arbrador
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gesso, repair

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