The next step is stretching the canvases (the canvas in the photo looks much smaller than it is because I am sitting well in front of it). If one does this right and gets the canvas nice and taut on the frame, this is hard physical work. The gripping, pinching, pulling and stapling only served to aggravate the blister and muscle & tendon aches I had acquired in building the stretcher bar frames (I know…”Oh, Poor Me”).
One of the canvases I like to paint on is Fredrix Antwerp, which is what I stretched for these two murals. I like the moderately rough tooth of that canvas. It really absorbs the paint well. It took me exactly one (expensive) Fredrix roll to cover both. My strut lumber only cost me five bucks, though, so I guess it all kind of averages out in the end.
The next step is toning the canvases. I can’t stand to work on a white canvas. For one, it makes the project look bigger (and more intimidating) than it is. I also get flecks of white coming through all over the damn painting if I don’t tone it first. A toned canvas also gives me the opportunity to more easily punch in my darks and especially my lights, as you’ll see in my next Journal entry.
Typically, I will get a paint sample of the wall color on which the mural will be mounted. I will then tone the canvas with that same wall color so that the bits of canvas peeking through the painting will harmonize with its environment (I did that with the San Diego Natural History Museum murals, as detailed in my book William Stout – Prehistoric Life Murals, a must-have tome for anyone with an interest in art ;-)). In this case, however, these murals will be stand-alone entities (at least as I currently understand it, anyway), so I toned the canvases with a light-to-middle value warm raw umber, just as I do for all of my easel and plein air paintings.
I mix up a batch of Winsor Newton Galleria acrylic for the toning, using raw umber, titanium (or unbleached titanium) white, yellow ochre (to warm it up) and a bit of burnt umber. I try to make the tone a middle value but I don’t get too anal about it. That these two turned out to be a little darker than I normally like did not mean I was going to repaint them with another, lighter coat of brown. That’s just too much time, trouble and paint, especially since it is all going to be painted over anyway. I try to put down a nice, even coat but if it gets a little streaky (which they did) it’s no big deal. Like I said, I’ll just be painting over it anyway.
I know: These last two posts are pretty boring — but we’re about to get to the fun stuff.
Next: The Canvas Lay-ins