Canvas stretching and setting up
Howard Lyon continues his five-part series that will help you begin using oil paint. In this instalment he focuses on preparing the canvas, and drawing for painting
Cotton canvas, linen, wood panels, copper, paper, glass and stone are just some of the surfaces I’ve seen oil paintings on. Cotton is a cheap alternative to linen, but is less durable and not as strong.
If you stretch your own canvas then you can save a lot of money. Learning to do so isn’t hard, but it takes a little practise to do it consistently. I recommend investing in a good pair of canvas pliers and an electric or pneumatic stapler.
Canvas, linen and panels are the most commonly available primed and unprimed surfaces. Priming your own can give you a lot of control, is another chance to save money and you can create textures that add to your painting.
Unless you’re painting completely from imagination or from life, you’ll need to gather reference. I’ll often make little sculptures or wooden models to photograph. Your reference can never be too good, so go the extra mile.
I use a grid to transfer my drawing to the canvas or panel. Projectors and carbon paper are great tools, as long as they aren’t replacements for time spent developing your drawing skills.
Once your drawing is accurate, ink or fix it, so that when you begin painting you won’t scrub out all of the hard work you’ve done!
Howard has worked as an illustrator and art director as well as a fine artist for galleries and collectors. You can see his art at www.howardlyon.com.