Making Canvas Panels

This is how I make the canvas panels that I like. Painting in oils on these is the most similar experience I have found to working in pastel. I'm not completely sure why this is, but there are a couple of possibilities. First, the canvas I use is more textured than most of the canvases you can buy, and the hard board backing behind the canvas supports the the fibers and eliminates the "bounce back" you get with stretched canvases. The hard surface mimics working on paper against a drawing board, and the enhanced texture is similar in some respects to sanded pastel paper. Also, the canvases I make seem to be more absorbent than commercial canvases, absorbing (somewhat) the first layers of paint and allowing me to drag subsequent layers across the textured surface while the lower layers show through a bit. This works best with a fairly dry brush. Anyway, enough already. Here's how I make the panels: [singlepic=98,320,240,,left] These are the things you will need to make a panel. A piece of masonite, a scrap of canvas large enough to cover with about two inches extra on all sides, some sort of "stick-flat" paste such as Yes! or Nori, a large brush, some steel wool, and something to trim your canvas. I'm using a cutting wheel that you can get at any sewing supply store.  I highly recommend this, but anything will work. Also a rag, extra pieces of masonite, and gesso will be needed--and a method of cutting your panel if desired.

[singlepic=97,320,240,,left] Here I am trimming my panel to size on a table saw. Cuts like butter. Nice! I like to work in my own set of standard sizes (standard to me, that is) so this is a great method of making surfaces. Just set the fence and cut a bunch at once.

 

 

 

 

[singlepic=93,320,240,,left] Here I have laid my panel on the canvas scrap and I am cutting it with the wheel. I should mention that my work surface is entirely covered by a 4' x 6' self-healing cutting mat. Also recommended. I found mine online and it was not as expensive as you would think.

 

 

 

[singlepic=96,320,240,,left] I am ready to glue my canvas to the board. The glue likes to bead up on my panels, so a quick going-over with fine steel wool makes life easier. Be sure to wipe off any dust and little wool bits with a dry rag.

 

 

 

 

 

[singlepic=103,320,240,,left]Here I'm applying the paste with a house-painting brush. You'll want to cover the surface evenly--not too thickly, but with enough paste to get into the texture of the canvas.

 

 

 

 

 

[singlepic=95,320,240,,left]Having flipped the glued panel over onto the canvas to center it, I have turned the whole thing back over and am smoothing out the canvas as much as possible. I am now ready to add weights and let it dry.

 

 

 

 

 

[singlepic=99,320,240,,left]Here I am placing another masonite panel over my canvas panel. This will help a great deal to get any remaining creases out of the canvas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[singlepic=101,320,240,,left]After placing a few heavy items on the upper panel, I am ready to let it dry. I usually let it sit several hours to overnight, depending on how big a hurry I am in. Also I would normally make several panels at a time, so I stack them: canvas panel, plain panel, canvas panel, plain panel and so on, with weights on the top plain panel.

 

 

[singlepic=104,320,240,,left] After letting the front dry I am ready to glue the excess canvas to the back of the panel. I've gone over the glue area with steel wool again, and am applying glue all the way out to the edge of the canvas so it will stick to itself at the ends. You can see this on the side I have already folded. The edges will lay flat once the weights are applied during drying.

 

[singlepic=105,320,240,,left]With the remaining edges glued, the canvas is ready to repeat the panel and weights step while it dries.  Almost done! 

A note here: to save time and produce a neat edge, you could simply trim the excess canvas flush with the panel after the first drying.  I've seen this done but haven't tried it myself. I  personally like to leave enough extra canvas that in the future, one could, if desired, remove the panel and stretch the canvas on standard stretcher bars. 

 

[singlepic=91,320,240,,left]A nice even coat of gesso and that's it!  As soon as the gesso dries it is ready to paint.

For examples of works on these panels, check out my Oil Paintings page. I believe five of the pieces currently posted are on the panels. Click on any thumbnail for a large version with description and medium.