Saturday, 17 May 2008

Canvas makings

I always seem to need quite some time to get to the actual painting I want to. So, it's been week 4 of 6 and I finally got going on the final set of oil paintings on the landscapes.

Part of the delay this time was the fact that I had run out of canvases. Well, I had plenty of ready-made or DIY small and square ones. But the last ones I worked with were considerably bigger, about 80x70cm or so, and I loved the feel of space and distance I could easily achieve with these. I also retracted my previous favouritism of square ones to go back to a landscape format. - The gouache studies used that format and very effectively so.

So, finally, this week I had planned ahead, had bought some stretcher bars, although not without difficulties; and also some more canvas. The very first lot of canvas fabric I had bought a couple of years back was some fairly fine callico - I loved it for acrylics and smaller sizes; but had bought some heavy cotton canvas after that: it was fairly coarse and heavy. So heavy that my fingers were sore after stretching it onto the wood.

So, when I was in the fabric shop this time I ended up buying some medium-heavy linen - Irish linen in fact - twice as expensive as the cotton canvas but seeing that I don't use that many large canvasses I was feeling generous.

Pulling the canvas over the stretcher bar
Pulling the canvas over the stretcher bar

Easy to stretch, pull and fix, it was a joy to work with. After assembling the stretcher bars (use a hammer if it's too difficult by hand), I cut the fabric so that it just stretches around the wood on the back side. I begin by stapling the wide sides: three staples on one side, turn to the opposite, pull firmly into place, and again staple 2 or 3 (with 5cm between each staples or so); I then turn to the two other sides and continue to work round the whole frame by frequently turning, pulling and stretching evenly. Once I'm close to the corners, I pull these in neatly, fold over and staple firmly into place.

Working my way round the frame
Working my way around the frame

As far as priming is concerned, I used acrylic gesso for the first ones. But ever since, I've been using simple white emulsion paint: much more economical, and it works well for the type of paintings I do - fine details rarely figure in my paintings, and so the emulsion paint is more than adequate. I gave each canvas four thickish layers of primer.

Seeing that used such precious canvas I was a bit doubtful about the cheap emulsion paint. But for the moment it looks great: the primer tightened the canvas to a good, sound drum; it bounces perfectly, has enough give, the surface is well sealed but still there is the weave texture throughout. It was such a pleasure to work on it.

I think that's one of the benefits of making my own canvas: the painting actually starts well before the paint/sketch/study - it's the selection of materials, bars, dimensions. So, by the time the first brushstroke goes on it, my canvas and I are already best pals...

Finishes: stretched, primed and ready to go
Finished, stretched, primed and ready to go


Lor Lor said...

You can't go wrong with Irish linen!
I'm Lorraine and I just wanted to say Hi and I'm looking forward to the moleskine exchange Steph has set up.

Gesa said...

Hi Lorraine... thanks for dropping by, yes - I did think so too about the linen. Very much looking forward to the moley project!