Apricots And Bunnies (not for vegetarians)

9 Mar

09 apricot tree

I’ve been having lots of discussions about rabbit skin glue with local artists recently. It seems that some art colleges don’t bother teaching about technique and materials any more. Well, there we are then! Anyway, rabbit skin glue is a very versatile and cheap size for applying to canvas, paper, wood and cardboard before painting, drawing or doing traditional or digital printmaking. It forms a barrier between the surface and the material you are applying. This is important because the surface might contain chemicals that will damage your pigment, such as cheaper papers, some kinds of wood, and also because your pigment might rot the surface, such as oil paints on canvas or paper.

It’s largely been superceded by acrylic gesso, printmaking papers with internal size, and commercially prepared art papers for digital printing. These can be very expensive. To prepare rabbit skin glue I use one teaspoonful of glue granules to 12 teaspoons of cold water, leave overnight to set into a revolting grey jelly then stand the pot in a bain marie (I use an old saucepan) to melt the glue. When it’s thin brush it quickly over the surface you want to prime. It leaves a lovely satiny sheen and is a joy to work on. I usually do 2 coats and stretch papers first, although some heavy-duty artpapers can take the strain.

This piece started as a digital photograph I took on my travels to the Hunza Valley in Pakistan when the millions of apricot trees were in Spring bloom. I tweaked it a bit in Photoshop (just very slightly with Cutout filter) and then printed it out using a good quality inkjet onto an A3 piece of Somerset I’d previously sized and dried with rabbit skin glue. The piece has a beautiful velvety quality that doesn’t really come over on the screen.

ps Toulouse-Lautrec did loads of paintings onto cardboard, usually with gouache and oil.

5 Responses to “Apricots And Bunnies (not for vegetarians)”

  1. Nancy Farmer March 11, 2013 at 09:15 #

    ….oh, and I meant to say: gorgeous photo!

    • Rosie Scribblah March 12, 2013 at 13:55 #

      Thank you – it’s such a fab place I just pointed the camera and clicked 🙂

  2. Nancy Farmer March 11, 2013 at 09:14 #

    Yay for old-fashioned materials! Personally never used Rabbit Skin Glue, because it really would not work with how I paint, but I love all the proper traditional techniques… very short-sighted not to teach them. By the way, Rosie, if you are going to London, I assume you do know of Cornelissen’s ? Not cheap but will sell you every obscure artist thing you could desire:

    • Rosie Scribblah March 12, 2013 at 13:55 #

      Ooh yes I know Cornelissens – that’s where I got the rabbit skin glue 🙂

  3. Rosie Scribblah March 9, 2013 at 10:03 #

    I’m going offline for a couple of days to look at great art in London. I shall be back soon with my new sketches 😀

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