Traditional Levkas Gesso

‘Levkas’ is derived fromo a Greek word meaning ‘white’.

· Heat 1 Liter of Rabbit Skin Glue prepared the day before in a bain-marie; never boil.

· Incorporate into it 2 pounds of alabaster powder. Use a wire wisk to get the lumps out.

· Add 1/2 teasponn of linseed oil for flexibility.

· Apply it to your panel warm in even crisscross layersand let it dry overnight.

· Apply several more layers. After which the mixture can be applied with a putty knife. Add a bit of water if the Levkas becomes too thick to avoid cracking.

· Sand to an egg shell finish.

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Traditional Gesso – Modern Practical Recipe

1 Part – Prepared Rabbit Skin Glue by volume
1 Part – Dry Gypsum, the finest available.
1/5 Part – Dry Zinc White pigment.

· Pre-mix the Zinc White Pigment thoroughly with the gypsum.

·Separately, make the glue. Soak 2 parts of Rabbit Skin Glue granules in 10 parts cold tap water. Leave it to soak overnight for better results.

· Place the container with soaked Rabbit Skin Glue in another containing hot water and allow to melt into a uniform jelly. Keep it warm but do not allow to boil.

· Now slowly sprinkle the gypsum and zinc white mix through a sieve as if it were flour.

· Do not stir. As the gypsum/pigment falls into the warm glue, it sinks to the bottom of the container. Sprinkle only small amounts at a time to enable the gypsum to actually absorb the glue.

· When all the gypsum/pigment has been absorbed, stir very slowly with a wooden spoon, taking great care not to incorporate air bubbles.

· Brush this gesso on a panel at right angles and up to 8 coats maximum.

· Leave to dry and next day, polish the surface with garnet paper or a damp linen cloth pad in circular motions across the surface.

PLEASE NOTE: If you rush the procedure and incorporate air in the mix, after brushing it on the panel, the air bubbles blow up during the drying process. As the gesso hardens, it doesn’t have time to level out the holes left by the blown up air bubbles. You panel will look more like a notice-board upon which people leave notes stuck with pins, which renders it useless for oil painting.

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