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For Mia Tarducci, the secret to success is to keep stretching and growing—to test and try new things that challenge and push her creativity. The Pittsburgh artist creates large abstract works, which she paints with acrylic on stretched canvas and paper. She shares her experience with two different Utrecht gessoes and some tips for taking a fearless approach when it comes to art.
Try Something New
Tarducci didn’t start out creating abstract art. She started out with portraits. Over time, her work evolved into abstract art as she pushed herself to break from what was becoming a comfort zone. “That’s what I try to do,” says Tarducci. “Whenever I start to feel too comfortable, I try something completely new.”
Meet the Challenge
One of the biggest pieces that Tarducci has painted measures 7×24 feet. The artist knew that she would face a challenge when she began the project. “I was terrified,” she says, “because I’d never done anything like it, but my best pieces of art come out of the times I push myself and just let go.” This desire to keep exploring and growing is a driving force behind the artist’s evolution. “When you have expectations and are comfortable with what you’re doing, the result can be beautiful, but it doesn’t always move your work to the next level,” she says.
Tarducci’s process is gratifying because she’s at the mercy of acrylic. “I see a blank canvas, and that excites me,” she says. “There are infinite possibilities, but at a certain point the work starts to dictate where it’s going, and I become less the author of the piece and more the companion to it.”
Find Your Voice
Tarducci has this piece of advice for new artists: “Find your voice. Find what speaks to you—what defines you as an artist—and try not to let the influences of other artists and instructors drown it out.” It’s this unique voice, she believes, that distinguishes an artist from a technician.
The Tarducci Test
Utrecht was first to introduce a revolutionary archival acrylic primer that can be applied in a single step. Offering a level of quality that rivals the world’s leading brands, Utrecht Artists’ Acrylic Gessoes come in a range of specialized formulas that deliver outstanding absorbency and archival stability on a variety of surfaces. I decided to make a side by side comparison of the Utrecht Professional Gessovs. Utrecht Studio Series Gesso. See the results below.
To test coverage, I painted a large canvas panel with carbon black—one of the new Utrecht Artists’ Acrylic colors. After the panel dried completely, I applied each gesso with pre-wetted brushes, pulling straight down and applying equal pressure.
Coverage Test Results
Utrecht Studio Series Gesso:This gesso, shown on the left of the photo above, is perfect for artists that prefer a pourable product. It’s very creamy, spreadable, and easy to apply. It dries quickly to a crisp, even surface with minimal brush marks—great for anyone who wants a smooth painting surface without sanding. It is a bright and clean finish, but two or even three coats are needed for maximum coverage. One gallon will go a very long way. This is a great option for artists who use a lot of gesso—I use it all the time in my studio. You can’t beat the price.
Utrecht Professional Gesso:This gesso is thick and smooth when it’s straight out of the tub (on the left in the photo above). It has a slightly stiff application that holds brush marks—perfect for creating textured grounds. It’s also brilliant, bright, and opaque, thanks to high concentrations of top-tier titanium white pigment. The coverage and concealing power are outstanding. This is what you need if you want to cover all your archival material with one brush stroke.
To test tint strength, I mixed one tablespoon each of the Professional and Studio Series Gesso with an equal amount of primary cyan—another vibrant new color from the Utrecht Artists’ Acrylic range. After mixing the colors well, I used the palette knife to drag the color along the length of the paper. In the middle, you’ll see the undiluted primary cyan, which I added as a baseline for comparing the tint strength of the two mixtures.
TINT-STRENGTH TESTING RESULTS
Utrecht Professional Gesso: This gesso (on the left in the photos above) produces a much brighter tint than the Studio Series Gesso—it contains very high concentrations of superior-grade titanium white. You can see that it’s bright, thick and rich. It’s also incredibly absorbent.
Utrecht Studio Series Gesso: This gesso (on the right in the photos above) doesn’t offer the same high-tint strength as the Professional Gesso, but it’s super spreadable and perfect for whenever you want to use many thin layers. It creates a matte finish that I love. It’s a great economical choice for artists who want to extend colors.
About the Artist
Mia TarducciHer work has been selected by jurors at the Brooklyn Museum, the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art for exhibitions across the United States. Her paintings have been featured in several national art publications. Over the years, she has mentored dozens and dozens of young artists. Learn more about the artist. Visit her pageDick Blick’s website