My Banff residency colleague Andrew Querner has a good short interview posted on the National Post/Arts blog related to his show at the Whyte Museum in Banff. Great to see him getting this attention!

National Post | Arts

Many art careers begin in the sheltered confines of college classrooms. Not so for Andrew Querner, who started by photographing his own vertigo-testing rock-climbing expeditions. Eventually, Querner forsook carabiners for cameras, taking assignments for Time, Monocle and The Wall Street Journal. Now, with his first museum exhibition on in Banff, Alta., Querner talks to Leah Sandals about feuds, foreign aid and looking to the future.

Q  You founded your art and photo career in an unusual way: by shooting your own rock-climbing expeditions. What, if anything, do photography and rock climbing have in common?

A  They offer different things, in some ways. With climbing, you’re really in the moment. In photography, there’s a lot more pre-planning you have to do before you can get to that place of being in the moment. And climbing is a very selfish kind of pursuit, whereas I hope the photography I do in…

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Why gesso?

A fellow watercolorist recently contacted me through my website to ask why I use gesso under about half my work. Others may be interested in my rationale:

I don’t put gesso on watercolor paper but on something smoother and cheaper, like BFK Rives printmaking paper. In fact I often buy damaged paper on sale, because it won’t matter by the time I’m done, so long as it’s of archival quality. I usually put 2-3 coats on the side to be painted and 1-2 on the other side, so it doesn’t curl. I just slop it on with a big wet house painting brush, though I’ve tried rolling, scraping, small brush, large brush – and I saw an article in the one of the recent magazines about stamping patterns into it while it’s still wet. I’m certainly not the only person experimenting with it, and I met someone who did a thesis project on it in the late 50s!

Here are some pros and cons:

  • Deep, intense color – the water evaporates and the pigments are sitting on a polymer coating instead of soaking into paper
  • For pictures like The Numbers series, really wet paint slides and intermixes in unpredictable ways
  • More tooth than YUPO, not ridiculously slippery
  • Easy to lift or alter (though staining pigments will never go back to white)
  • Easier to handle very large areas since they don’t have to be done in one quick pass, and the surface stays flatter. I wrapped some 76 x 51-inch pieces around live trees. They’re gesso’d and varnished – I’d never do that with watercolor on traditional paper; too big a risk they’d be ruined by moisture.
  • Possible to layer with interesting effects, e.g. a thinner layer on top of a thicker layer of paint will crawl with useful textures (see the sky in Iterated Cranes)
  • Possible to rub back in with a damp rag for an almost fresco surface (and why I like to brush rather than roller the gesso). See the sky in The Joints of Cranes or Across the Water.
  • Makes a strong presentation when mounted on panel and spray varnished, rather than traditional matting and glazing. Equal in presence to an oil painted canvas on the wall.

On the other hand:

  • it’s harder to get soft edges and transitions
  • it’s hard to impossible to get smooth washes
  • the pieces are more fragile until varnished
  • the process wears down brushes faster. I keep 2 sets, one for gesso and one for watercolor paper.
  • it takes more prep time, so it’s a little less spontaneous.
  • I’ve experimented with partial gesso, but haven’t found it to be very noticeable.
"Industrial Midway" at Centennial Gallery, Kent WA

"Industrial Midway" three 40 x 26 gesso'd panels mounted on wood cradles and varnished.