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Monday, June 23, 2008

Work has begun!

The sunflower triptych
The left & right sides measure 14 x 14"
The center measures 14 x 20"

Day 1 - The making of the canvases.
I really like to make my own canvases. For my small paintings, I don't. But for larger ones, I almost never buy ready made ones. I use a very old method, which makes a beautiful stretched surface. These canvases use purchased stretcher bars (although I've done plenty of buying lumber strips, attaching quarter round, and mitering the edges, then gluing and nailing.) I use unprimed cotton duck and attach with staples loosely. I usually staple everything behind so that the edges can be painted.

The next step is to dissolve rabbit skin glue in cold water. When completely dissolved I heat it, to a little bit warmer than warm, but not boiling, and I paint the surface with the glue. (The proportions are available by manufacturer.) As I paint, the canvas begins to shrink and creates a drum-like sized canvas. When it dries, it is ready to prime. I use gesso primer - either clear or white, depending on the look I'm after. Usually 2-3 coats of primer are needed. If necessary, I sand between coats. When the last coat is dry, I'm ready to paint.

Day 2 - As you can see from this photo, I have now sketched in my images. I sketched free hand, using a HB pencil. Then I oil sketched in light layers to lay in values. Depending on my subject matter and size, I may just oil sketch - or it is possible to use charcoal. If using charcoal, I suggest a coating of gel medium so that charcoal is not incorporated into the paint.

One of the reasons to stop and look at what I've done is to make some assessments about shape and proportion and placement. After looking at where I am now, I see that the center panel has some proportional problems. The small folded over flower at the bottom needs to be enlarged considerably. This wasn't readily apparent to me until I stepped away, made a digital photo and looked at it with "new eyes". Sometimes I can see things in a new way just by stepping back or by looking at it upside down or by going away for a bit and returning to it with a new outlook. Regardless of how, its an essential step!

Check back in a day or two for progress!


Michelle (artscapes) said...

Wow! Very traditional preparation - The sunflowers in other canvases are gorgeous - excellent technique. I can't wait to see how these ones turn out....

A friend of mine uses that method to stretch linen over birch panels...

William F. Renzulli said...

Your preparation is impressive, and the results even more so. I look forward to seeing the finished results

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