"A -Technique - Canvas and Panel Supports"

A World of Supports

Splined canvas.

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The other day I dug out an old

International Artist magazine

and read a great article written by Mr.

Daniel Greene

that spoke about the differences of Linen/Cotton canvas versus wood panels and it gave me an idea to share with my readers my preferences of painting supports.

The first thing to realize is that every artist's technique requires a different type of support. For example works that have a lot of heavy paint applied to them usually can get away with a less dense canvas weave than works that require a lot of detail, which require a very smooth surface for handling. 

There are two types of canvas surfaces available, one being linen and the other cotton. Linen has a stronger surface than cotton and is the type I prefer to use. Canvas also comes in a variety of weave density and with different amount of primer applied.

Mr. Green told of visits to canvas manufacturers both in the US and in France where he had observed how a canvas is primed. According to him canvas comes in big roles that are stretched over a very long table, which is flanked by two workers, each holding something looking like a long sword. First hot rabbit glue is poured on the canvas and then both men start going down the entire canvas to spread the glue as evenly as possible. The rabbit glue seals the fibers together, so that later on paint does not seep through. Once the glue has dried the men return to their positions and apply Flake White Oil paint to the surface. Again, in unison the workers spread the oil as evenly as possible across the entire canvas surface. This is what is called priming and depending on how often the process is repeated will determine if a canvas is called single-primed SP or double-primed DP. 

The more primer a canvas has the smoother the surface will be. In case of portrait artists and miniature painters who really need to be exact a double primed canvas is usually preferred. 

But a canvas does not necessarily have to have an oil primer. Acrylic gesso (mix of chalk and acrylic paint) is applied in the same manner and slightly less expensive than an oil primed canvas. Acrylic-primed canvas is widely used with great results. 

The main difference between an oil primed canvas and an acrylic primed canvas according to Mr. Green is that the oil primed surface is slicker and similar to painting on glass and even less absorbent than a acrylic primes canvas. 

If I use anything other than an oil primed canvas, I usually apply several additional coats to my support/canvas until I get the surface that I like for the type of painting I am planning. Here is a great video on

how to apply gesso

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