When you are buying your art supplies are you ever confused by the multitude of choices and the wide price ranges? Whether you are a student, hobbyist or professional you want to be sure you have invested your money properly on the right supplies before you invest your heart and soul in a project. Artworks on the Square will be publishing a series of blogs written by Kathaleen Brewer that will help you as you shop for supplies. The first in the series is on canvases. Don’t forget the Artworks on the Square Art Supply Store- not only is there a large selection of quality products, you also have the advantage of Kathaleen or one of the other staff to help you make the right decision for your project.
Why so many canvas choices? How do I choose?
First of all, stick with the standard sizes so you won’t have to spend big bucks on framing! Basic standard sizes are 8x10, 11x14, and 16 x 20. If you want to go larger, it is suggested you buy “gallery wrap” or “deep” canvases, which mean you, can paint the sides and won’t have to buy frames. Watch out for really cheap bundled packs from China-these canvases aren’t always true sizes or squared properly, so when you go to put them in a frame, there will be gaps around the edges. Keep to the ageless mantra - you get what you pay for.
Basically, less expensive canvases have large cotton fibers and a loose weave that means they are rough textured and paint will bleed into the weave. You can get around this by adding additional layers of Gesso (dry and sand in between layers) to fill up the open weave and smooth. If the label says triple gesso, keep in mind there are cheap, watery gesso and thick, quality gessoes.The tighter the weave, and the better the sealant, the higher the price.
Remember that cotton stretches and sags with temperature and humidity and can rot if not sealed properly. Then there is linen, which last longer and does not rot (duh-think Old World Masters). Linen usually has a tighter weave, thinner fibers and a light tan color.
If you are a beginner, go with the less expensive cotton. It takes a year or two before your work will evolve to the point where better-made canvases are worth it. Intermediate painters should start working on better-made canvases (pre-sealed with higher grade gesso). Most professionals paint on linen. If you are a detail painter or portrait painter, stick with “smooth” surfaces so you will get sharp edges. Abstract or loose painters can get away with “rough” surfaces.
PS. We use the Fredrix or Tara brands, which are made here in Georgia, and the Winsor Newton brands, which are made in England.
Do you have more canvas questions, do you have anything to add or is there a topic you would like covered? If so post a comment below.