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Canvas panels?

I get why linen is a better choice than canvas due to far higher tensile strength, modulus of elasticity, and for a given weight it is apparently finer in texture.  But if one adheres canvas to a board, and let us assume for the sake of argument that the method of adhesion is archival, then what is the difference between, extremely expensive linen and cotton?  It would seem that the structural issues would fall away and one could simply be dealing with how the material was prepared and the surface texture. 

One problem could be that the texture on the lightest commonly available cotton is coarser, they could use a finer textured material, because the load bearing is dealt with by the panel, but conventionally the finer material is not available.


  • @TamDeal
    Putting linen on stretchers it the perfect feedback from the brush. The weave pattern is beautiful. I lasts a long time. But! I has become soooo expensive. I bought a roll in 2014 for $800 that same roll the last time I looked was $3000. In 2019 I bought a roll of canvas, good canvas, enough to do a hundred big paintings for $80. I will live with the course texture.

    I wasted a lot of the linen mounting to panels. Wasted. Only the weave is appealing. The adhesive is not reversible. :s
  • Couldn’t you just apply multiple coats of gesso to canvas with sanding in between to smooth it out .  Weave wouldn’t be as sweet but hey it would be smoother.
  • If they're works for eventual sale I can see working on stretcher'd linen or canvas,  but studies and ephemeral works can be on prepared hardboard or even prepared cardboard.  I do most of my painting on sealed archival-quality matt-board cut-offs or 300-lb watercolor paper. 
  • In reading the DMP discussions, I have come to realize that for many painters, the physical pleasure of painting is as important as the final product. I am more product-focused, so it is easy for me to not paint on canvas.

    I use panels (ACM or hardboard) and Arches purpose-made oil paper. I then seal the surface and put on primer.  I have not used canvas, either cotton or linen, for 20 years, mostly from archival concerns. Do any of you have any archival concerns about using it?  

  • D.  are you asking whether there are archival concerns about canvas?  There certainly are, and the material has been around for a long time with a long record of the problems.  My concern about canvas or linen are twofold:

    1) We are preparing the surfaces with materials that don't have a good track record.  Either in terms of what we know, or the time we have had with them.  This is why some people go to extremes to reproduce ancient formulas.  One thing I do know about resins from the last 100 years is that when they don't fall apart they often are impossible to bond to.  I have no specific information relating to art materials.  But they are from the same families.

    2) I am lucky to have a number of people in my family who are extremely competent fiber people.  One of them had an international reputation before she retired.  Cotton and linen, even at times the very best stuff, are not what they once were.  This is true of a lot of material, leather is mostly very poor even if not relevant here.  I don't know if that applies to linen for canvases, but if it does not, it would be the exception.

    I have a lot of concern about panels.  I work with these material as a woodworker, and they are toxic to work with because they offgas a lot.  That worries me.  I am not worried about the health aspect, I have ways around that, I am worried what these unstable gasses are and how they will affect the panels.  I see really accomplished artists say that panels sourced from home depot are "archival".  What they really are is unknown and of different source almost every time you buy them.  A lot of people like the sandwhich panels, I don't think the plastic in the panels is archival, and the vinyl layers people sometime paint on, are doubtful.  We do have crosslinked plastics that seem quite durable, but almost everything else falls apart within a lifecycle.

    The source of these materials has gone largely offshore, and there have been problems in both home and boatbuilding when materials, in one case theoretically graded, just fell apart.  One thing I have personally observed about plywood is that a lot of the glues have been swapped out for lessor glues in the last years; there if often a lot less glue; And the veneer pacakges have changed a lot with the surface veneers being made out of paper thing material now set at the 90 orientation.  Could be that does not mater to artists, but it is an indication that there is no such thing as (insert panel product name).  The one reliable product is  aircraft plywood.  Boat ply is probably OK, but I have seen catastrophic failures, and sometimes bugs, in the highest rated 1088 stuff.

    I certainly don't worry for myself, there is no way that anyone is keeping my paintings, and that applies to probably 99.9% of the art out there.

  • I find it difficult to justify the time and expense to stretch my own canvases.  Maybe I’m just not experienced enough to appreciate the quality differences.  I can buy, in bulk, 25 canvases that are stretched well, gessoed in a more uniform manner than I believe I could accomplish, and the cost per 20 x16 inch canvas could be as low as $3.50.  Am I just being naive?
  • edited May 5
    I've stopped stretching my own. I ring my local art supply store now, put in an order for the canvases I need, and pick them up when they're ready - often the next day. When I was stretching my own I'd often find I didn't have a bit of canvas the right size or that I didn't have the right sized stretcher bars and it was a pain trying to keep things square. Having the art store do it saves me a lot of time and work and it's only slightly more expensive than doing it myself.

    You can buy really cheap ready stretched and primed canvas in many stores now - K-Mart, Office Works etc.. I've tried them but the quality is a concern. The canvas is extremely thin and the stretcher bars are made of light, cheap wood. Made in China. They might be ok for paintings one is not going to show or sell or if archival quality is not required but I wouldn't use them. I need linen or at least twelve ounce cotton canvas on sturdy stretchers.
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