For artists the word canvas means a fabric that is used as a painting surface. The difference is that some canvas is made from cotton fibers while others are made from linen fibers.
I will be using linen canvas produced for the Utrecht art supply company by Claessens. The technical description is: Double Oil Primed Belgian Linen Roll, Type 820, Smooth Texture. This double primed Belgian linen is a professional-grade, woven to exacting standards and prepared by hand.
In 1906, Victor Claessens founded a company to produce top-quality artist’s canvas. Almost a century later, Claessens is still operating in the original buildings in Waregem, Belgium. The descendants of Victor Claessens have made a conscious choice to keep a small-scale approach to production and to honor the traditional methods for treating artist’s canvas.
Linen is strong and durable, and remains the preferred surface for many artists but it is expensive. It is made from the fibers of the flax plant and top quality flax is harvested mainly in Western Europe. Linen retains its natural oils, which helps to preserve the fiber’s flexibility and stops the canvas from going brittle.
Claessens principally produces canvas from flax. This provides the best quality and is by far the most durable. When the fabric arrives at Claessens, it is first checked with great care for any weaving faults.
Two layers of synthetic adhesive are applied. After each layer the canvas is dried. Zinc white is used as the primer, bound with linseed oil. The paint is applied on to the glued linen and dried for three days. Double-primed canvases undergo the same process once again and then dried for ten days. After that, the canvas is sanded and a finishing layer based on titanium white is applied.
I am using stretchers made by Upper Canada Stretchers in Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada. They are a small company that produces stretcher types and profiles have been sold across North America for the past 10 years.
They have become the stretcher of choice for hundreds of professionals, artists, restorers, conservators, who need quality canvas stretchers for their work. They focus on crafting of professional stretchers made with the best designs and materials found anywhere on this planet. They guarantee their stretchers will be straight & square, free of defects and will not warp or twist over time.
The stretchers are made of straight-grained, kiln dried, clear white pine for exceptional strength and stability. Each frame piece is finger-jointed. Precision tongue & groove joints ensure a perfect friction fit and rigid square corners. The cross braces are mortised and tenoned for strength and a superb fit, with hidden keys. The keys are wide and made of hardwood with serrated edges to ensure grip in the grooves.
Stretching the canvas on stretcher bars is the first step in the construction of the frame for the Viking Family Portrait painting. The frame maker needs to get the exact measurements of the stretched canvas and check for the squareness of the stretched canvas. The frame is then made to fit the canvas.
The story of the canvas has finished and the story of the painting can now start. Tomorrow I will be shooting preliminary photo reference of my models - the Soderholm family. Then I will make a preliminary drawing to guide the final photo shoot in July. This week end Kelsey Patton, the costume maker will deliver the costumes.
While Kelsey is in the area, Steven Henning, Producer / Director at Lakes Country Living, will be interviewing her and shooting video for a documentary film on the making of the costumes for the Viking Family Portrait painting.