An artist's canvas - The starting point for your creative vision

by Art Materials on Jun 16, 2021

Artist's canvas
“White. A blank page or canvas. So many possibilities.” 
-Stephen Sondheim

A picture may well be worth a thousand words, but without a canvas on which to paint a visual story, any artistic inspiration remains an illusion; an invisible idea. The starting point for any creative vision - be that an oil or acrylic masterpiece - is an artist’s canvas. Coming in a wide range of sizes and surface characteristics, a ready-to-paint stretched canvas or canvas board needs to be part of your art supplies checklist. 

A canvas is a quintessential artist’s support offering a myriad of advantages over paper as it is more durable and offers longevity. 

“I don’t go to the studio with the idea of saying something. 
What I do is face the blank canvas and put a few arbitrary marks on it that start me on some sort of dialogue.” 
-Richard Diebenkorn 

A brief history of the artist’s canvas

During the Renaissance, wooden panels were a painter’s support, but these were soon replaced by canvases that could be stretched across wooden bars. This made larger paintings more portable as they were lightweight and could be rolled. Canvas was also a more stable surface due to less warping and cracking. In those days, artist’s canvases were made from Venetian hemp sailcloth. As far as etymology goes, the word “canvas” is derived from “cannabis” (aka hemp). Linen canvases soon followed and cotton canvases are now a popular and less expensive option.

A brief history of the artist’s canvas

A brief explanation of artist’s canvases

“Every canvas is a journey on its own.” 
-Helen Frankenthaler

Most walk-in and online art shops stock affordable deep edge and standard edge stretched cotton artist’s canvases that are primed with acrylic gesso or the more expensive linen canvases that are primed with oil. (Not all artist canvases are pre-primed). 

If you are a beginner - a stretched cotton canvas or canvas board is a good starting point. Linen canvases are stronger and offer a superior and finer surface to paint on. Canvas boards are affordable, lightweight, easy to transport and show off your brushstrokes really well. Once you have decided on the size and whether you prefer landscape or portrait, unwrap your artist’s canvas, and let your creative imagination begin to roam.

A brief explanation of artist's canvases

Stretched artist’s canvases always look professional as they can be hung up without the need to be framed. The little wooden wedges that accompany a stretched canvas are designed to be hammered into the 4 internal corners at the back to create tension to the surface of the canvas. This tautness helps you control your brushstrokes. 

A brief lesson for painting on an artist’s canvas

“It’s so fine and yet so terrible to stand in front of a blank canvas.” -Paul Cezanne

Getting started on your brand new artist’s canvas can be a daunting prospect. The old masters experienced it as well. But just as a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step, so does a painting start with one brushstroke. 

  1. Prepare your canvas - If your canvas is not pre-primed, you will need to prime it before you let your creative strokes loose on it. For this, you will need gesso, which protects the fibres of the canvas, making the surface archival and a little bit softer to paint on. It also means you will need less paint.
  2. Paint a tonal background - Most artists start by painting the entire surface in an all-over diluted colour to create a  backdrop and mood. This ‘underpainting’  becomes the base for other layers of paint and adds a tonal contrast. It is a great way to break through any artist's panic about starting an artwork. 
  3. Experiment with a medium - A medium can be added to acrylic or oil paint to create different effects specifically for use on a canvas. Effects include high-gloss or matte finishes as well as a variety of textural finishes. 
A brief lesson for painting on an artist’s canvas

A brief online visit to The Art Materials Company

“All you need to paint is a few tools, a little instruction and a vision in your mind.” -Bob Ross

Before you can awaken your artistic spirit and discover the endless possibilities when painting on an artist’s canvas, you will need a few tools and a little instruction, and that is where The Art Materials Company obliges. We are Ireland’s leading online Art supply store. 

As far as art supplies and tools go, we have it all - from canvases and easels to brushes and paints and everything in between. 

For a little instruction, head over to our blog page. 

Visit us today and discover all you need for your artist’s muse.