Don't ask me about the scientific properties of gesso. All I know is: it works for me. I lay gesso down on nearly everything as a first layer. I love it's quality of resisting acrylic. A nice dry gessoed surface can be painted with acrylic and sprayed with water and completely lifted off, or let it set a few seconds and wipe off for little specks, leave longer for more pronounced specks. Apply gesso through a stencil and after you've heat dried it or let it set overnight you can add a wash of color and lift off for a really nice effect. I love when my paper plate palette gets so messy with color, and brushes are no longer recognizable as the black paint, or the ochre paint, and gesso gets mixed in....some cool stuff happens. If your painting feels like it's getting too dark or muddy, brush on a little gesso, then add a layer of color. The new layer will pop with a brightness that color alone can't offer you. Here are some works that show how gesso is always the common demoninator.
Thank you for all your heartfelt and kind words about Winston yesterday. It will be a Valentine's Day to treasure.