I often get asked why I paint on the surfaces I do. I don't like painting on stretched canvas. I will for some larger pieces as painting on wood, MDF or copper for larger works just gets too unwieldy and if I do paint on stretched canvas, I typically only paint on Blick canvases. They're well-made and consistent as well as coming in almost any size/shape you can think of. Just like brushes, this is about personal preference. These are just the reasons I don't like painting on stretched canvas - it doesn't mean you won't love it.
Reasons why I don't like to paint on stretched canvas:
1. I don't like to stretch my own. To me, time is better spent putting color on the canvas rather than prepping to put color on it.
2. I don't like the give canvas has. I've stretched parts of the canvas just by scrubbing in a color and I get really annoyed at this. You can get things like Tighten Up which is a canvas retensioner, but why bother? Canvas will also loosen on the stretcher bars over time as well.
3. It's not as archival. Because canvas has more give, the paint will crack over time - it's a given. It also can degrade, especially using oils, if the canvas isn't primed properly. No thank you. It's not that I'm really looking for my paintings to last hundreds of years (I won't be around), but I do want them to last at least 10 without cracking/degrading/etc.
4. Lastly, I don't like the "tooth" or texture. I don't feel it adds to my work and many times it is just way too toothy for me.
Cradled Wood Panel:
Cradled wood panel is basically plywood (typically birch or basswood) that has sides which give it a sturdier construction. So, really, it looks like an inverted shadow box of sorts. With wood panel, I have to prep the surface and the sides. I typically use a thick, almost impasto gesso and spread it on with a large knife (I actually use a 13 inch long cake frosting knife). I then can get almost any texture I want from marble smoothness achieved with sanding to almost an old-world plaster texture. I also stain and varnish the sides so the piece can actually be hung with or without a frame. This where I get my cradled wood panels:
- Dick Blick: I like Blick's studio wood panels. They come in a bunch of different sizes all the way from 3"x 5" to greater than 6 feet. The depths offered are roughly .75 inches and 1.5 inches. I like the deeper sides as I feel they look better if you're opting for the 'unframed look' and they give a little more surface for the varnish and stain.
- Cheap Joe's Art Stuff: I also like Cheap Joe's Really Good Wood Panels in the 2" depth. Cheap Joe's also offers other depths, but I do really like the 2". I typically only get the Cheap Joe's panels when they are on sale.
- Gesso: Since gesso is an important part of the panel prep process, I figured it is important to mention that here. The gesso I use is Utrecht's Professional Acrylic heavy bodied gesso. I find I like it better than anything else I have tried. It goes on smooth and retains my knife marks. It can also be thinned with water.
- Colored gesso: I occasionally use colored gesso and for that I like Holbein Acryla Colored gesso. It is much more fluid, so I apply this with a paint roller over the textured thick gesso I've applied. I like the violet, ochre and orange.
I absolutely LOVE Ampersand's Gessobords. The quality is superb and the MDF used keeps the panel from warping. I also like their value series panels in canvas texture if I'm looking for something a little different. You can't go wrong with these boards. They come prepped and ready to paint!
Centurion Linen Panels:
I like to use canvas panels for pet portraits. I feel they give a bit more drag when I'm painting and I can better obtain the likeness when painting on these panels. The linen has some texture, but not nearly as much as stretched canvas. The board used is also MDF which hinders warping.
Painting on copper is a newish obsession for me. I love it! A lot of prep goes into preparing the copper as it needs to be sanded and all impurities need to be removed, but the end result is worth it. Copper is very archival as it expands and contracts at similar temperatures to that of oil paints. I only paint with oils on copper, however other artists also use acrylic. You can't paint with acrylics directly on the copper as it won't adhere, however you can prime the surface for painting with acrylic.
Copper allows for so much luminosity as light reflects back through the paint. It also adds a lot to the composition when leaving bits of the copper exposed. Copper needs to be sealed once the painting is dry and I seal with a very thin coat of Galkyd.
I get my copper from Acadia Weathervanes and they cut to order which is awesome. They do a wonderful job in packaging and each piece of copper I have received from Leslie has been in perfect condition.