An insight into canvas production

This year I have become increasingly interested in the process of creating high quality, handmade canvases. A fairly long process, but one that gives my painting a weight and character that a shop bought canvas just doesn’t have. It is a wonderful feeling to look at a finished piece of work and think: ‘I made that entirely from scratch’, akin to when you serve up a meal to your whole family that you slaved over for hours!

I invite you to take a look into my process of canvas making, now a pivotal part of my practice and one that I am proud to share with you.

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The ‘stretcher’ is the wooden frame that the canvas is stretched around (hence the name). This is made from four pieces of wood that are cut to size, sometimes needing a middle support piece if it is a larger canvas. The corners are connected using a method called ‘half lap joints’, which consists of sawing, hammering and chiselling, all quite loud and scary but very important. And there you have it, the frame!

The canvas is then stretched and pulled over the frame and subsequently stapled in place. In order to ensure your canvas doesn’t ruffle up like a flamenco skirt, you have to place one staple on each edge at a time, whilst turning the frame for each staple to create an even stretch. Next, the corners are folded neatly and secured with some more staples. Once you have stapled the whole circumference of the canvas, each about 2cm apart, the canvas should be fairly firm and smooth. This is the exciting bit where I can start to envisage what type of image will grace the canvas following its completion.

However, If I was to paint on it at this stage, the paint would bleed into the canvas and look like a wonderful muted tie-die. Therefore, to prepare the canvas for paint, you must first prime the canvas to seal and tighten the fibres and stop any absorbance. I use the traditional method of rabbit skin glue, which, unfortunately, is made from exactly what it sounds like. I personally choose this primer because it dries clear, leaving my canvas in all its speckled natural glory.

Sometimes painting on bright white can be a little intimidating…

 

Rabbit skin glue comes in crystal form, which is diluted in water in a 1:11 ratio and left overnight to become a jelly-like liquid. The next day, the jug of rabbit skin jelly is placed in a water bath of around 65 degrees (or alternatively you could put the jug in an old car washing bucket filled with boiled and cooled water like me!). This is then painted on the canvas quite roughly, ensuring the whole frame is covered and it’s all soaked in to the fibres. A couple of coats and once its dry you’re ready to go!

And now I can pick up my pencils and brushes and get going on whatever the next project has become, on my one of a kind, pride and joy!

And recently, I’ve been making my own floating frames for my paintings… but lets not get into that today…
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Recent Exhibitions

I currently have a piece of work exhibited at the newly refurbished The Gallery in Holt, as part of the East Anglian Artists Open 2019. Every year the prestigious Institute of East Anglian Artists hold an Open competition in which any local artists can enter up to three pieces of work. The highly talented IEA judging panel then selects pieces to be brought to the gallery for a second judging. The final pieces are then curated into a wonderful exhibition held at The Gallery for the public to come and view. I have been lucky enough to make it through to the final exhibition, along side some other incredible local artists and I highly recommend taking a look! I am also really excited to have been selected to become a Provisional member of the Institute of East Anglian Artists.

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The piece that I have exhibited is from a shoot I did over summer, of a friend from school. The subject has such incredible freckles and fire-red hair that it suited my rich, warm colour palette perfectly. I cropped in tightly to enhance the detailing and intensity of the gaze of my subject.

Since June 2019 I have been hand making all of my own canvas stretchers, stretching the canvas over them and priming them myself. This for me, gives such quality and heaviness to the work itself and allows me to have full control of the overall look of the work. This takes some time to do, but is very rewarding once you see the finished piece. The floating frame was also handmade by me and my talented partner (hopefully he can teach me how to do them by myself eventually, but for now its a two man job!) and then it is hand-painted.

Please do go and see the exhibition if you have time, it is well worth a look.
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About

Having drawn and painted my whole life, I went on to graduate Falmouth University with a BA(Hons) Degree in Fine Art in 2017 and have recently relocated to North Norfolk where I grew up.

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My practice involves capturing the essence of a person within a momentary shot, a fleeting moment in time, I aim to show the interior thought and emotion of a person through a painting.

Instinctively, I see skin tones and flesh with rich, exaggerated colours and tones. This inspires me to work with the movement and application of oil paint to create vast intense portraits. I am specifically drawn to pinks, reds and oranges giving the sensation of heat and connoting life. Focusing on the eyes within my work and the power they hold, I create a personal and raw emotional connection between the stripped back subject and the viewer. My aim is to bring an honesty to the subject, not merely a visceral, visual truth, but the entirety of my subject captured in a moment.

Recent Commissions

If you are considering getting a commissioned painting done of your loved ones or pet then please take a look at some examples at the bottom of the page. I also thought of some tips for those of you thinking of getting commissions done.

One thing that is useful to think about is your photo, we would need to consider the composition that you would like, and ensure that the photo quality is really high, preferably using a digital camera. It is really difficult to capture the sparkling, loving character of the subject if you can’t see the colour of the eyes, or where the highlights are, so it is important to have lots of detail in the photo for me to work from.

Another top tip is to be eye level with your subject when you take the photo, this avoids awkward angles and makes your painting look great in any position on your wall.

The ideal place to take your picture would be outside in natural light, or near a window. There is no better place for a photoshoot than outside!

I am happy to come out to you to take the picture if you are fairly local to me. I hope this has been helpful to anyone hoping to get a commission done

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