What Is the Meaning of the Word Gesso?

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The meaning of the word "gesso," which is Italian, is board chalk, as gesso is a form of calcium carbonate that helps prime boards and canvases for painting. Understand how gesso is used in the art world with information from an experienced artist and art supply store employee in this free video on drawing.

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Video Transcript

Hi, my name is David Lamplugh and I work for Asel Arts Supply in Austin, Texas. I'm here to answer question today about what is the meaning of the word gesso. Well, gesso is an Italian word that means board chalk. And the board in board chalk refers to calcium carbonate; what used to be use to white boards and prime boards in preparation for painting. In Renaissance time, the calcium carbonate was mixed with rabbit skin glue. Now rabbit skin glue acted as a size to send chop the canvass to make sure that it was tough enough for painters to paint on correctly. Nowadays, most of that, most of the rabbit skin glue has been replaced with acrylic polymer motion in most commercially available gessos. The reason is is because, rabbit skin glue is, it's an animal product and it has a little bit of acid in it and it also can deteriorate overtime. It's unpredictable for most artists. So a lot of artists have move over to using acrylic gesso which has acrylic emulsion in place of the rabbit skin glue and titanium dioxide which wasn't available in the Renaissance as a colorette. It also has a calcium carbonate, as previously mentioned for absorbency sake. So that's a little bit about the word gesso.


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