I have had about 50 years personal experience with canvas as a painting support. The first 20 as a painter, the next 30 mostly as an art supply retailer. Some of the historic canvas prep techniques I learned in school aren’t taught anymore and many of the materials used aren’t readily available. There are a number of reasons for these changes. First, many painters want to spend their time creating rather than preparing. Second, many don’t have the access to tools and space for stretcher building and canvas stretching. Third, pre-made stretched canvases are now available at a much higher quality.
Since 1965, Masterpiece Artist Canvas has been improving their stretched canvases to earn their reputation for professional quality today. Artists used to build their own stretched canvases so they had control over the end results. Masterpiece has built into their everyday production the features that artists could not find in “ready-mades” 20 years ago. They offer 3 profiles of bars, all of which keep the canvas surface away from the wood so it doesn’t show through one’s paintings. All the stapling is done on the back so the edges are smooth to be painted or for ease of framing. Corners of the canvas are folded and not cut so the painting can be taken off the stretchers, rolled, shipped and easily re-stretched. They also automatically add cross braces to canvases 24” and larger to keep the wood from twisting and surface from warping. Masterpiece’s stretched canvas range includes 10 different canvas surfaces to give the artist the right ground, weight & texture for their medium and technique. And they offer 130 sizes from 4×4 to 72×96. All in all, that means that artists now have access to over 3000 different stretched canvas options.
Masterpiece is also the only company I know that is obsessed enough about stretched canvas to offer artists dimensions that employ the golden ratio. The golden ratio (or, as in the case of canvas, the golden rectangle) has been used in art and architecture throughout history (DaVinci, Dali and others) to achieve what is believed to be the most pleasing proportions to the human eye. So you may want to try an 18×29 rather than an 18×24 canvas and see if it makes your painting more pleasant. Of course, now that you no longer have to spend your time stretching your own canvas, you have time to paint both an 18×29 and an 18×24 to compare the two.
I know somebody out there is tsk tsk-ing that many artists don’t prep their own surfaces, but there’s a lot to be said for pre-stretched options. Come in and we can talk about how much fun it used to be to prepare rabbit skin glue and apply white lead with a painting knife. Come in and I will to tell you about the 6 canvases I stretched during a tornado (they always had a life of their own.) The bottom line is, most artists stretched their own canvases because it use to be the only way to get the size and surface that they needed. We have a lot more options these days thanks to Masterpiece Canvas and that gives us lots more time to just be painting. Until July 3rd, all Masterpiece Canvases are 50% off MSRP!