Canvas Stretching and My Process

Canvas Stretch from Diane Beem on Vimeo.

Way back in art school a painting professor insisted on us students stretching our own canvases. She said didn't really care about what we ultimately painted on, because that choice was up to us, but for the purpose of that particular class, we needed to at least do the exercise of stretching a few of our own canvases. Since then I have always stretched my own.

For me, it serves a few purposes; I'm very particular about the surface that I want to paint on, and the process of stretching gets me really excited and into my internal groove of creating. 

The Surface: I like a medium weight cavnas becuase it is the easiest for me to stretch, and I just like the way it feels under my brush. My paintings all have a single color "ground", which which serves as both a preperation for the surface of the canvas, and as background color to paint on. There is a combination of absorbancy and then layering that I am going after, and the medium weight canvas supports that. I have tried many different surfaces, but the ones that I prefer really mimick the almost raw canvas feel. There are some masonite panels that have one side that has the absorbancy of a canvas, which is bearable. Most panels these days have a smooth, plasticy feel, where there is little absorption of the paint, and that just about drives me CRAZY! The feel of my paint slipping over a surface and not absorbing is the exact opposite of what I want.

The Stretching: I really love the stretching process. It begins after I have my image in my head of what I'm going to paint, and I have my dimensions picked out. To me, the excitement of starting a new painting is just like being a five year old kid, waiting in bed until I know I'm allowed to get up and see what is under the Christmas tree! When I'm stretching, I'm letting my mind begin to create my image already, and I'm getting into that mental "flow" where I enter a space in my my mind that is devoid of time and space; it is pure imagination (ha! cue that song from Charlie and the Chocalte Factory movie with Gene Wilder!)

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