Gesso vs. Primer
This old debate eh?
Well it is an important debate for good reason. The primer that is used on your painting surface will directly affect how your ‘masterpiece’ will adhere to the primed surface and how long it will last.
In the ‘olden days’ gesso was a mixture of rabbit skin glue, titanium oxide and chalk. This was used to coat wood, marble, canvas and paper. The gesso gave a stable surface to paint upon allowing a good adhesion to the surface and to the paint.
Now if you look on your brand of gesso today, it is far less likely to contain any of these ingredients, normally swapping them with cheap alternatives like PVA, lime and water. Make your own I say…the rabbits are a bit of an issue though…
A good quality ‘trade’ undercoat system can in my opinion be better than the cheap gesso. These polymers are highly engineered to be stable, flexible and in inert indoor environments long lasting, you will pay more for them too!
I personally use the Resene quick dry undercoat on all my stretched canvas blocks and boards, (http://www.resene.co.nz/artists/artists_canvas.htm) because if you think about it there is a lot of money is spend by these companies on ‘Paint Science’, if it can stick to the side of a house for 50 years it’ll do just fine on my canvas thanks.