You’re an unusual type of budding artist: you want to do everything hands-on! So you’ve researched on how to make the canvases themselves and are ready to begin. Making canvas paintings will achieve your goal of creating a piece of art from absolute start to finished work. Start by thinking of the dimensions you want for this particular painting, and cut the stretcher boards from 1×2 inch boards, utilizing a miter box to get the perfect 45-degree angles for the corners. Staple the boards together both inside and outside to give it that extra-firm feel that will make painting on it a delight. To use an expert’s secret, use quarter-round trim to apply a raised lip to the outside edge of the completed stretcher bar, as this will lift the canvas off the stretcher bars and eliminate that awkward line of uneven paint that comes from using cheap canvases which do not use this extra step. You’ve seen it on paintings that are otherwise lovely; it’s a mark put into the paint by the width of the wood underneath. Using the trim is a step well worth taking.
Now that you’ve completed your stretcher bars, time to stretch something over them. You want unprimed canvas, because you’ll later prime it yourself. Using a staple gun, staple the canvas which has been measured to overlap the dimensions of your bars by an inch or two, and work your way from the middle of one side of canvas to each end of that side. Pulling firmly, staple the other side in the same way. Then do the ends, and voila! You have nearly completed making a canvas for your artwork. Tuck down each corner, staple and trim the excess and you’re done. Now onto the priming — it’s easy with gesso watered down to a thin consistency. Working under a bright light to show up any uncovered spots, with a housepaint brush cover the canvas evenly, not forgetting the sides. You’ll want a smooth basis for your work, after all! Let it dry, give it a second coat to make sure it’s truly smooth, dry and get right to painting.
What should you use to hold your acrylic paints? An inexpensive palette is a sheet of glass, safely protected at its edges. Each time you finish using it, let the acrylic paint dry, and then scrape it off with a glass scraper. It will be set for the next time you are inspired to paint. Then there is the big question, acrylics or oils, but honestly, the advantages are for the acrylics at this stage of the beginning artist game. Acrylics dry faster and are cheaper to use and thus experimenting will not make you look worriedly at your checkbook. So go for the acrylics and make your vision come true.
Acrylics dry quicker than oil paints, require only soap and water cleanup, and if you begin by using acrylics, your technique will grow solidly and surely into becoming part of your repertoire as an artist. You may or may not move onto oils, but for sure your painting will be one that you personally have constructed from stretcher bar to the last layer of paint. You can be proud of your expertise in making canvas paintings.
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