Canvas has a bit of a dark side. It has what I call the wicked weave. I’m always learning as an artist. I never want to reach a point where I can say “I know it all.” If I ever reach that point, I may as well stop painting.
I want to share with you one new little trick I’ve discovered this week (or perhaps rediscovered would be a better way of putting it). Firstly, some context. For the past few years, most of my paintings have been on canvas. And I’ve really enjoyed working on canvas. But recently, mainly because circumstances have dictated that I paint smaller scale pieces rather than the large canvases I have often favoured, I’ve become dissatisfied with canvas as a surface to paint on.
When it became obvious earlier on in the year that the international situation was pushing the cost of living up and up for everyone, I knew that I could no longer assume that if I painted larger pieces, people would buy them. So I began to produce a range of smaller canvases, some as small as A5, hoping to encourage people who were tightening belts to continue to buy my originals, albeit at a lower price.
If you’ve never painted on canvas, you may not see the issue. Canvas has a very pronounced texture, produced by the weave. It’s not at all a flat surface to paint on. This is absolutely fine when painting on a larger scale, because every detail of the painting is that much bigger. But if the painting is small, then painting small details on the surface of a canvas is extremely difficult. The paint-brush often follows the weave of the canvas, and so trying to paint thin lines becomes almost impossible. The paint doesn’t leave the paint-brush in an even flow. It can glob in the deeper parts of the weave.
One of the artists I have followed on youtube for a long time is Michael James Smith, who paints the most astonishingly detailed paintings.
And I have only just discovered one of his secrets. He doesn’t paint on canvas. he paints on board, which has been coated with white primer called gesso, and sanded to an extremely smooth finish. Painting on a board like that is an entirely different experience to painting on canvas. And I like it! Suddenly the paint-brush goes exactly where I want it to, and the flow of paint is not broken by the terrain of the canvas.
So I’ve decided that for a time at least I am going to paint on board. In actual fact, I had my first go at this last year, when I painted the houses in Stoneleigh, Warwickshire:
You’ll be able to see I hope the greater amount of detail I was able to use in this painting. Those tiny little bricks on the houses would be well-nigh impossible on canvas, unless I was painting at a much larger size than this (it is about 40×30 cm).
So keep checking in on my latest work to see what I produce in this next phase of my artistic journey! And keep creating!