Bob paints on gessoed paper, canvas, board - all surfaces! Why?
First of all, gesso is a paint primer. Simply put, gesso acts as a barrier and a great base for your paint to adhere to any surface.
Your store-bought canvases already have a thin coat of gesso sprayed on it. This is very convenient but is generally not enough of a coat of gesso for me. Personally, I prefer a thicker, more textural coat of gesso... whether it is on canvas, wooden panel or paper.
I believe this goes all the way back to my art school days, where we were encouraged - out of necessity, really - to establish an all inclusive routine when it came to working on canvas. Pre-stretched canvases were decidedly a luxury! As art students, we were trained to stretch the canvas, mount it on the stretcher bars and prime it with gesso... a good routine to get into before painting!
Today, it's all about paint bonding with my substrate (the canvas, wooden panel or paper) and getting my DNA all over it. Weird, I know... but it is my routine!
And that's why I also gesso my beautiful Kilimanjaro or Fabriano Watercolor Paper... because I expect the paint to react the same, whether it is on canvas, wooden panel or paper. Gesso makes the substrate/surface the same... levels the playing field, so to speak. A coat or two of gesso will produce the same expected results on all surfaces.
Apply the gesso either with a wide brush or spread with a cardboard scraper trowel. Then throw away the cardboard scraper.
Being a professional, it is important for me to use professional materials - good paint, archival based materials, including the canvas, wooden panel and paper. I do not paint on "student grade" surfaces, cardboard or industrial waste.
Spread the Gesso... Then the Love!
To view more of my favorite art materials, go to my website and click on my "Studio Resource List" - you can download it as a PDF.