Nina Royle: Making a traditional gesso wood panel workshop

1 June 2024

Making a traditional gesso wood panel workshop

Saturday 1 June, 1:30pm – 4:30pm


Limited places available: book here

To accompany  And so, the magpies multiply (23 March – 9 June, 2024) the artist,Nina Royle, will be offering a workshop on making traditional gesso wood panels like the surfaces that she uses in her paintings in her exhibition.

Traditional gesso is a painting ground (similar to an undercoat) which is made from a calcium-carbonate based pigment called whiting that is mixed and heated together with rabbit skin glue. Between 6 and 10 layers of the ground are applied to a wood panel, in order to create a thick base-layer to paint on. The ground has been used for centuries in Western Europe, pre-dating acrylic and oil-based methods for preparing painting surfaces. Most typically however, it is associated with medieval panel painting. In comparison to painting on a surface prepared with shop-brought acrylic gessos, a traditional gesso surface looks, feels and behaves in a very different way. It is highly absorbent and has a ceramic-like finish, which means that it imparts a dry, fresco-like finish to a painting. It can also be sanded and polished to create an utterly-smooth, ivory-like finish. Different again to acrylic gesso, the ingredients it uses are bio-degradable.

In this workshop you will learn how to prepare from scratch a wood panel coated with traditional gesso. There will then be plenty of time to test-out painting on this surface with a range of different paints.

*Please note, this workshop uses materials derived from animal sources
** All materials provided
*** Please bring an apron or wear clothes you don’t mind getting messy


Above image: Nina Royle, In the Service of Reflections, 2023
Egg tempera  on a shaped wood panel with traditional gesso
42 x 32 cms
Photo by Nick Cooney

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Nina Royle

Nina Royle graduated with an MA in Fine Art from the Slade School of Art in 2016. She is an Associate lecturer, and Senior Painting Technician, at Falmouth University and has a studio at CAST in Helston.

Recent solo exhibitions include: Down Your Tresses, Arusha, Edinburgh 2022; Tongues and Mirrors in Mercury, Kingsgate Project Space, London (2021).

Recent group exhibitions and projects include: Act’s of Gathering (with Lucy Stein), Eden Project, Cornwall (2023); And One Day the Apple Fell (curated by Dan Howard-Birt) The Black Box UCA, Farnham; (2023) Hospital Rooms commission (with Libita Sibungu), Springfield Hospital, London (2022); Bathing Nervous Limbs, Arusha, Edinburgh, 2021.

Portrait of Nina Royle by Annie Handscombe

Open Tuesday - Sunday 10:30am - 5pm. Closed Mondays but open for Bank Holidays