Friday, 13 February 2009

Simon says: How to stretch a canvas

Today it is possible to buy cheap and cheerful pre-stretched, pre-primed canvases at any discount stationer's or art supply shop. However, for those wanting to stretch their own, Simon Pierse at the Aberystwyth University School of Art has just given his annual demonstration on how to do so - from scratch. I will be re-presenting his talk here.

Stretching the canvas means putting it onto a wooden frame and fastening it tight like a drum. Pre-prepared canvases you buy in a shop will also be sized (treated to make the surface shrunk and sharp) and primed (painted white, or another colour). Sizing is optional if you work in acrylics, but if you use oils, the paint will seep into the canvas (using more paint, and dulling the colour) and also the painting will eventually disintegrate (probably after you shuffle off your mortal coil, but nonetheless, something to consider if you sell your work professionally).

Things you will need to stretch a canvas:

- canvas or other suitable fabric (more on types of fabric later)

- wooden canvas stretchers

- staple gun or hammer and tacks

- canvas pliers (optional but handy)

If you are sizing the canvas you will need:

- rabbit skin glue (or vegetable-based substitute)

- double boiler or other way to put one container of liquid into a pan of hot water

- kettle to heat the water

- house paint brushes, e.g. 1 or 2 inches wide

If you are priming the canvas you will need:

- gesso (for acrylic)


- oil painting primer (alkali based)

- Wooden canvas stretchers

to be continued...

See also, Simon Says: oil paints - everything you always wanted to know