The Old Flemish and Italian Masters Traditional Ground

Step #1 Making the Gypsum Biscuits:

8 parts – water
1 part – finest gypsum powder or Plaster of Paris by volume

· Sprinkle the gypsum into the water through a sieve, stir continuously for at least 30 minutes or until the gypsum no longer sets.

· Then stir this mix every 2 hours for that day and the following 2 days.

· Cover with a damp cloth and leave it so for a full month, stirring it at least twice every day.

· Take then a sieve large enough, place a cotton sheeting piece or muslin inside the sieve and pour the water and the gypsum and leave to drain all the water, squeezing with your hand gently until all the water has been poured off.

· Make small cakes or balls of gypsum using your hands and let these cakes to dry thoroughly.

Step #2 Making the Gesso Sottile:

· Have your Rabbit Skin Glue glue ready and warm, pour the cakes, one by one into the glue, and stir to mix them well, until you obtain a heavy double-cream consistency gesso.

· Apply this gesso warm with a brush over degreased and already sized MDF or Masonite panels. Brush on 8 coats, at right angles. When you first brush a coat, the surface shines, wait it to dry until it becomes dull and matt before brushing the following coat. A total absolute maximum of 12 coats can be applied.

· Leave the panel so prepared to dry completely until the following day or maybe for 2 days if necessary.

· Finish by polishing the gesso with garnet paper or a pad of damp linen cloth, using circular movements across the entire surface. This technique will produce a marble touch effect just enough absorbent for oils.

PLEASE NOTE: The initial measure you used to measure the volume of gypsum and water for the cakes must be the same volume measure you use to measure the Rabbit Skin Glue glue. The quantities for the full gesso, i.e. the cakes and the glue, are 2 parts of Gypsum Cakes to 1 part Rabbit Skin Glue Glue. So, suppose you use a ½ pint glass. Measure ½ pint glass of Rabbit Skin Glue granules by volume and 10 x ½ pint glass of cold water, soak the granules and make the glue following one of the recipes previously given. Therefore, in keeping with the same ratio, measure 8 x ½ pint glass of water and 1 x ½ pint glass of dry gypsum powder (as indicated for making the cakes: 8 parts of water to 1 part of gypsum, by volume). It is important to keep the same measurement ratio all along in order to obtain the desired heavy double-cream consistency. You may have noticed that this ancient recipe does not include any white pigment, so your ground will not have the solid white opaque color, typical of a more modern traditional gesso. This, however, is not a shortcoming, as you will have a half tone ground from the onset to work on, by tracing a design on and applying a translucent Imprimatura.

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Old Masters Medium I

Ingredients By Volume:

1 Part – Venice Turpentine or Strasbourg Turpentine

1 Part – Stand Oil or Sun-Thickened Linseed Oil

1 Part – Pure Gum Turpentine

· Mix Venice Turpentine with oil at room temperature, mix well until the two combine in an opaque thick homogeneous paste.

· Now combine into the above mix Turpentine, slowly and bit by bit until the right consistency is achieved. The above indicated quantity of turpentine (1 part) may be reduced or increased in order to achieve the preferred consistency.

About Old Masters Medium

Studies carried out by many academics and artists painters have produced several proposals for the ever interesting quest for the Old Masters Oil Painting Mediums. Of these, of course, some can be considered unlikely, but other authoritative studies should be taken into account.

Oils Studio made some trials on the probability of such mixes and arrived at some interesting oil painting mediums. The recipes presented here have been tested and the mediums have been prepared at room temperature. Some recipes were adapted to comply with easier preparation.

All 6 Old Masters oil painting mediums discussed should dry within a period of time between 12 hours and 3 days. Drying times depend enormously of the oil paints being used, atmospheric conditions and climate characteristics of the area where you live. You may use a drier to speed the drying process. However, the presence of balsam turpentines imparts a smooth flat glossy finish as the balsams flat out in the drying process. A shortened drying time may not be sufficient to allow the balsam to flatten out completely, so be careful to calculate how long you want the drying time to be.

Both driers below may be used safely in the ratio of 1% up to 5% calculated over the total volume of oil painting medium. To remain 100% safe, an average 3% should be used. Suppose one of the painting mediums above was prepared, making a total
A drier or siccative may be used safely. We do not recommend cobalt siccatives because these tend to dry the surface leaving a softer under-layer. If you decide to use a drier, use a lead oxides based drier.
The French Manufacturer LeFranc & Bourgeois makes produces 2 distinct driers:

·Brown Courtrai Drier: Prepared with suspended manganese and lead oxides, it is the strongest siccative available. This siccative has gained some bad reputation in the past due to abuse from artists. Used in the recommended doses, it is perfectly safe to employ in oil painting.

·White Courtrai Drier: Prepared with suspended lead oxides, it is less powerful and due to its pale colour, it is to be preferred by many painters. Application rules applying to this siccative (illustrated above) are exactly the same as for Brown Courtrai Drier.
Both above driers speed up drying times considerably and help drying and stabilising the paint film from the inside out.

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