Sketching on raw canvas — advice needed

I love the look and color of raw canvas, so I’ve gesso’d it myself and I’m testing my sketches on a little palette piece before I take it to my abstract painting. I’m finding it super bumpy and hard to sketch in detail. All graphite pencils end up looking similar even when sharpened. Should I add a few more layers of gesso? Use a specific kind of pencil? Any advice or guidance this group can provide would be so helpful! I’m a total newbie trying to find my own artistic style. I have a vision but I’m having trouble executing the sketch part.

Hi Kj! I don’t have any experience using raw canvas for drawing/painting, but to me I would gesso then lightly sand it, gesso again if necessary and lightly sand it again. The surface would be less bumpy but you could still retain the nice color and look. (I know that during a live lesson, Ashley mentioned that he used this technique for some of his paintings - I just can’t remember which live lesson it was).

I know nothing about this topic. If you can make it to a Live Lesson on Wednesday nite, this would be a good question for Ashley.

Terri Robichon

Hi KJ,

Graphite on heavy textured surfaces might always show up very bumby and smeary.

It you like the bumpy look of the final piece, more layering of gesso might only smooth your canvas.

Are you working with acrylics?

Maybe you could try sketching very thin and pale with a tiny brush, do you can go over the sketchy lines more opaque?

I don’t work with acrylics, but this would be my best guess.