Now that the weather is warming up, it's the perfect time for a panel making session. In the next couple of posts I'll explain the process of making gesso and preparing the panels that I use for studies and smaller works. It's a pretty involved process but the end result is well worth it. Here's what you'll need:
- a VERY rigid support (either a well braced panel or 3/4" cabinet grade plywood)
- muslin to cover panels
- 1 bag hide glue pellets or flakes (usually sold as "rabbit skin glue")
- table saw
- 3" chip brush
- large glass bowl
- large pot (glass bowl should fit partially into it)
Next, prepare the hide glue: You'll need enough to cover the panels on all sides with two coats. Soaking the glue ensures that the water is evenly absorbed by the glue particles. DON'T SKIP THIS STEP.
You'll need a double boiler to heat the glue. Since I don't own one, I use a large glass bowl set into a large pot filled with water. I put the whole thing on the stove, bring the water to a boil and then set the heat to low (see fig 1.) When the glue is melted (it should have the consistency of a clear broth), you want to liberally coat the front, back, and sides of the panels with it and let them dry. Two coats is best.
Next, cut the muslin to fit the panels. This will go between the wood and the gesso to ensure any cracks that develop in the wood over time won't transfer to the priming. For a clean edge, cut the fabric large enough so that you can fold it over the side (but not to the back). This gets glued down with the gesso which I find easier than trying to cut the excess fabric off with a razor blade.
Liberally coat the front of the panel with glue and lay the muslin on top. Press it down and smooth it out with your fingers. Let this dry completely before moving on the next step: PREPARING THE GESSO.