Experimental mixed media painting using traditional gesso with Merna Liddawi

Ref: S2D13432

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About this course

Make a traditional gesso ground for your paintings and experiment with layers, textures and different materials such as pigment and ink. Explore mark-making with innovative drawing tools and techniques, and apply gold leaf.

Course Description

The aim of this course is to explore the different ways you can use traditional gesso in mixed media painting by creating textured paintings.

Gesso is traditionally used for egg tempera painting but, on this course, you will explore the versatility and joys of this ancient material that has long been lost.

You will start by making traditional gesso using the ancient techniques of glue and chalk, following a recipe that was used by early renaissance artists. You will explore how the gesso can create a superb, porcelain like surface by sanding with different grades of sandpaper.

You will explore how to change the ‘tooth' of different surfaces and experiment with the effects that this offers. You wil use wooden boards and create various surface textures by using different materials and tools. You will explore building up and taking away from the surface and imprint different objects onto the gesso to produce interesting textures. Each stage will be demonstrated by the tutor.

You will have several boards ready to paint on using mixed media. You will discover how materials behave on the surfaces that you have created. Some of the mixed media you will explore are inks, acrylic inks, watercolours, chalk pastels and pigments. You will also try adding gold leaf to certain areas of the painting to give highlights, extra texture and interest.

You will leave the course with several mixed media experimental paintings. Intermediate and advanced learners will have several samples to take home that will act as an ‘encyclopedia’ of reference for future paintings.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • The course fee includes the cost of providing gesso materials (rabbit skin glue, French chalk whitening), 8 x MDF boards, pipettes and sandpaper.

What students need to bring

  • Apron
  • Watercolour paints, inks, palette
  • Soft pastels – 3 colours
  • Graphite pencils, notebook
  • 3 flat brushes (hog or nylon any size), gold leaf or imitation gold leaf
  • Objects with interesting textures to impress for mark-making (anything you can find that may make an interesting texture)
  • Pieces of scrap mountboard (A5, A6 small pieces) (Mountboard is also available to purchase in the shop if you don't have any.) - optional
  • 2 old mugs and 2 glass jars
  • Old toothbrush, small comb

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • A good variety of art materials, including watercolour paints, inks, soft pastels, graphite pencils, notebooks, palettes, flat brushes (hog or nylon any size), gold leaf, imitation gold leaf
  • Available from tutor:
  • Various loose pigments to buy from the tutor

Additional information

Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear (no open toes or sandals).


Merna Liddawi

Merna Liddawi is an award winning international artists who exhibited in Portugal, London, Venice, Florence and Malta. She finished her MFA with distinction from West Dean College specialising in early painting techniques. She has more than 10 years teaching experience and her work is sought after and been written about by different curators.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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