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Support - which does mark use? Belgium Linen? Cotton Duck?

     I started painting in oil using Mark's method. I don't think he ever mentioned what kind of support he paints on... is it Belgium Linen or cotton duck, etc... also it would be fantastic if mark sold canvases primed already the way he does it before he paints on the canvas. 

I bought a Belgium Linen canvas and there is nothing like it, so smooth, perfect for portraits...but it was also $80.00 for a 18x24 whereas if you go to Michaels you can get the same size on cotton duck for $6.00. 

What do you guys think? 

I also tried boards, and they are really smooth but I like how linen or cotton absorbs the paint. 

Mark Alexander


  • FlattyFlatty admin
    Cleassens #13 linen is one of the reccomended. 18x41 piece on sale for $30.59 at  item number 50733A
    I use it and love it. 

    Mark has also reccomended Centurion. if you can swing it, take a look at the rolls. Cheaper per square inch than any of the cheaper stuff when you buy it like that.

  • Yes, much cheaper in the long run to buy a roll if you possibly can. Good advice, @Flatty.
  • what about boards or wood, would you guys recommend any?
  • did sargent paint on linen also? 
  • I've never painted on wood or metal but surely you could prep them to be as nice or nicer to paint on than anything else. Gessod cotton or panel... You are still just painting on top of gesso. You don't want the actual fabric to absorb paint that would be very bad. One nice thing about gesso is you can apply it and sand it in ways to fit your liking.

    Look into painting on dibond. That is what I am switching to once I modify my easel to hold it. It is light, not too expensive, easy to cut, more archival than linen, no bounce at large sizes unlike fabric, and probably has other benefits too
  • This form, like panel painting, was a form of studio art but used canvas as a support rather than wood panels. Canvas was both lighter and less expensive than panels, and required no special priming with gesso and other materials. From the Baroque era onwards (1600) oil on canvas became the preferred form of painting throughout Europe. It was particularly popular with new bourgeois patrons in 17th century Dutch painting (1600-80), notably in the form of portraiture, still life and genre works.

    When they write that old masters painted on "canvas" do they mean a cotton canvas or more like a linen? 
  • I am from England.

    Regarding Sargent, three portraits in the Tate Gallery, London are on canvas, with a small study on board. The National Portrait Gallery, London has around twenty portraits, spanning his career and all were painted on canvas (not linen). He painted while the Impressionists were going strong in France. By then, there were ‘art shops’ offering prepared products like oil paints in tubes and stretched canvases of stock sizes, with companies making larger canvases to order; much like today.

     The Mona Lisa is painted on Poplar panel. It is quite a small portrait, yet over the years it has warped. Larger paintings using a wooden support often warped considerably more. Poplar is lightweight, certainly compared to oak and these days you can buy different thicknesses of Poplar plywood (laminated with glue). But it is likely, the glue will contain formaldehyde. There is a Formaldehyde Free MDF, which many like to paint on. Thin boards are often glued to a wooden cradle that makes the surface rigid. To get away from the smooth surface, a piece of thin muslin or cotton can be glued to the surface with PVA based adhesive (Archival neutral PH if you prefer). Once primed, it provides a ‘tooth’ that will take paint from the bristles like canvas does.

    The main difference between canvas and board is the bounce. Boards are rigid and also weigh more. Sargent painted his portraits on canvas. At that time, the traditional wooden supports had been replaced by canvas, as they were lighter and so much easier to prepare, especially larger canvases for full-length portraits. Many artists were painting alla-prima outside and canvases were easier to transport.

  • edited January 4
    For large paintings I think it would be hard to beat  stretched canvas or linen. It's lightweight and therefore easy to transport and hang. You can leave it rough or make it as smooth as you want with repeat applications of gesso and sanding.  It can also be stretched after painting or glued to MDF or other rigid supports. You can also buy it in large rolls, which makes it cheaper, and cut it to any size/format you want. Paintings on canvas/linen have lasted centuries so, providing it is properly primed and the fat over lean rule is adhered to, there are not a lot of archival problems. 
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