Sunday, December 13, 2009

Let’s talk materials: painting surfaces (canvases and canvas boards)

Classically when painting with oils one uses stretched canvases and there are some really good brands out there that are already pre-stretched and ready to paint. Some are even stretched around the edges. These are quite useful for those artists who like to carry the painting over the edges instead of paying an arm and a leg to have them framed. If you want to stretch your own canvases you’ll need plenty of materials, including saws (a mider box or mider saw for cutting the angles), sanding materials, wood glue, nails, brads, a hammer, clamps and a large flat surface on which to work. When I used to go to the trouble of stretching my own canvases, I would place my newly-made canvases in a hot bathroom shower after stretching the material over the stretcher bars… the steam from the bathroom shower would tighten the canvas as tight as a drum if exposed to the hot water and steam for a minute or two. Oh, make sure you buy gessoed artist canvas or you’ll end up having to stretch the material and then gesso it. The things we have to go through!

So I suggest buying your own stretched canvases. Prices range according to size, qualities and brands. The trick is to find the right canvas and stick to it. A brand that I really like is “Fredrix” (archival quality canvases) in both stretched and canvas boards. A less-costly brand of canvas board is “Art alternatives”. Be careful if you use canvas boards. Have your painting framed stiffly into a frame soon after it dries. Or if you’re not going to frame it right away, store it face up on a flat surface so that it will not bow. With the stretched canvases you don’t have to worry about bowing, but you sacrifice having that hard painting surface…especially useful to the pallet-knife painters.

• Tip 1: Avoid buying odd-shaped and sized canvases so that when it comes time to frame you won’t have to fork-out the extra bucks to have that odd-sized custom-made frame you want.
• Tip 2: Try continuing your painting around the edges at least once. The effect can be quite pleasing when the painting is mounted on a nice clean neutral-colored wall.
• Tip 3: When buying stretched canvases you might want to avoid the ones with stretcher bars down the middle (back) of the canvas. The bars down the back and middle of the canvas really cause problems during the process of painting.
• Tip 4: Visit

I’d love to hear your input regarding painting surfaces - especially pertaining to products, brands, pricing and function.

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