Canvas is a woven fabric that is used for sails, backpacks, awnings and a number of other noteworthy items, but it is also the mainstay for use as an excellent surface for oil and acrylic painting.
If you are a beginning painter, it would be a bit intimidating if you didn’t have some knowledge about how to get started painting on canvas, so here goes”
Where ever you purchase your canvas, be sure and unwrap it, because the number one mistake beginners make is that they fail to unwrap the cellophane from around their canvas. Yes, it is true!
Secondly, you should stretch the canvas so that it becomes tight and smooth, making each inch of the surface of the canvas as smooth as everywhere else. This is done on a stretching frame and they can be easily purchased at your favorite art store.
Once your canvas is stretched, the next step is also one that many beginners skip, simply because they are not aware that it exists. If you have taken any art classes in painting, you will know about this.
Pre-paint a wash or a primer coat of the medium of paint that you are going to use on the canvas, and let it dry. The color should be anything but white, as you can let the color of the wash show through, to accentuate the theme and overall colors of your painting. This wash or background is called a “toned background” in some circles.
Good colors such as Burnt Umber, Raw Umber, or White + Yellow Ochre work for fall and Autumn scenes for example.
Your canvas when you buy it will almost always be white, so by giving it a base color from the beginning, you alter how things look and things take on a more “real life” feel because the only thing that is really white in nature is snow and ice.
For most budding artists, it is a good idea to start out our art career with oils, because you can mix your colors around, smash them and scrape them off the canvas if you don’t like how things look.
Watercolors dry too fast for beginners and acrylics form a film on top very quickly, as they are plastic based. With oils, you can make all kinds of initial setup scenes, called underpainting, to get the proportion and colors you like and paint over them when things dry. Perfect it is for beginners.
Canvas is a perfect surface for painting on, as it has been used for thousands of years, and many paintings have survived those years quite handily. Canvas is very sturdy, lightweight and can take the abuse that you might have to give it when changing your mind 45 times as to how a certain color looks.
Canvas will hold true as a surface if you have prepared everything properly, and if for some reason life changes your painting plans for a while, you can leave your work, and know that you can come back and pick up right where you left off, at any time in the future.