Product Profiles: Why do artists stretch their own canvases?

Ask the Expert: "With prestretchedcanvases and primedboards available in so many sizes,why do artists still take the timeto stretch and prime their own?"

A:There are a number of reasons whyartists choose to prepare their ownsupports in-studio. Reasons rangefrom thrift to professional pride to pureenjoyment.

Personal preference:

This is probably the most compellingreason to craft your own paintingsupports. While there is a lot of varietyin factory-prepared grounds,sometimes making your own is the only way to get the exact combinationof fabric, sizing and priming you want,in the correct size, proportion andcolor. Factory-applied primings tend tobe smoother and less absorbent thanhand primed surfaces. A hand-appliedground can impart roughness and“thirstiness”. Preparing your ownsupports also makes it possible tocustom-tint the priming or add collageelements in the very first layer.


Stretching just one canvas at a timemay not save money, but preparing adozen or more at once can be veryeconomical, provided you've got theroom to work and can store thefinished product. Canvas, stretchersand priming materials are usuallysignificantly more affordable whenpurchased in bulk, and it's a lot easierto reduce waste when cutting from aroll of canvas compared to 1 or 2-yardpieces.

Devotion to Craft:

If materials and process areparticularly important in your work,preparing your own supports adds adeeper connection to every aspect ofthe craft. Stretching and priming canbe very meditative when you devoteextra attention to making each canvasor panel a beautifully crafted object inits own right. Once in a while, take a little extra care with small steps likesquaring and filing stretcher cornersand beveling panel edges- you'll lovethe results!

A Break from the Easel:

No matter how much you love topaint, sooner or later you'll want totake a little break! There’s alwayssomething that needs to be done inthe studio, even when you’re notpainting. Getting canvases ready forthe weeks ahead is a great way tostart fresh. It’s also the perfectopportunity to organize your nextseries of paintings by crafting a groupof deliberately proportioned canvasesor panels.

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