Thursday, April 21, 2011

On a roll

Two woodpeckers of indeterminate specie.

Traveling and painting big art can be a problem. I am painting some 24 by 36's and 24 by 30's.
Here is how I do that.

I carry only one set of each size stretcher. These are the oversized, "professional" stretchers that are about the size of a mans wrist. I like those for bigger paintings as they don't "bow-tie", that is, contort inwards at the middle. The lightweight stretchers are less than ideal for anything larger than an 18 by 24. I carry a box with several sets of large stretchers knocked down , a roll of canvas in its fiberboard tube, a stapler and canvas pliers.

In the morning before I set out to make a large painting I assemble and square a set of the stretchers and mount the canvas on them. After I have finished the painting outside I leave it in the sun to dry. This works particularly well in the desert of course. But I also paint with an alkyd medium, usually Liquin, so I get quick drying times anyway. By about the second day the painting is dry to the touch. I then pull the staples out from it's perimeter, and take the canvas off of the stretchers again.

Often I carry a second tube, from a mailboxes store, but on this trip I have only the tube with my canvas in it. I lay the painting out on the ground, or the top of a large bear proof steel storage box
and gently roll it, painting side inwards, back on the roll from which it originally sprang. Now I have my stretchers back for use on another large painting.

I have done this many times and have never had any problems resulting from rolling the paintings. It may help that they are still newly painted and very flexible, I don't know. When I get home I will put all of them back on stretchers of the correct size and then finish them in my studio.

This system allows me to carry only two sets of large stretchers and paint as many big paintings on a trip as I like, without having a car full of enormous paintings to protect all the way home from the abuse of travel. Sometimes I have stopped at a UPS store and bought a tube from them, which they sell in many sizes, and mailed the rolled paintings back to myself at home. Works great.

I don't paint any small pictures, a 16 by 20 is about as small as I like to work so this enables me to avoid having to do the pochade box (pronounced pochade ) miniatures that many traveling artists make. I need full sized paintings for the galleries and I don't want to make them in the studio from sketches and photos, I want to actually paint them on location. I get better results that way, and show the original art rather than studio made versions art in my exhibitions.


Jesse said...

It's an interesting method. It's been a LONG time since I've painted on stretched canvas (15 yrs?) but I seem to remember it taking a long time. It added time since I stretched unprimed, and then went through the priming process.

How long does it take you to assemble the stretchers and attached the primed canvas?

Stephanie Berry said...

I'm enjoying the "Travels of Stape" and how you cope with the challenges of plein air painting.

Cynthia Hillis McBride said...

For my next plein air trip. I am going to try the Richard Schmid method of taping the primed linen to a board for painting in the field. This looks as if it would work just as well and save the extra step of having to stretch the canvas/linen twice.

Deb said...

Why not linen panels, Stape?

And Cynthia, I've used that method many times and works fine.

Stape, how do you cut out the linen in the first place? Do you try to square it at all, or just cut a bit swatch larger than the painting size?

billspaintingmn said...

The Rifle Man! Each episode starts
with Chuck Conner walking down firing his rifle. The camera pans up and Chuck's got this dead serious look on his face as if to say "I mean business, I'm not fooling around."
That's you Stape! Your a man with a
plan. Your work is as true as you, and that's integrity. !00% art!

Prairie painter said...

I am wondering about priming the canvas. Do you do this before you head out on your trip so it is ready to go? or do you buy pre-primed? How much priming do you do anyway? I get confused about the different recommendations when using oil. Canvases will come primed, but then one is recommended to put on some more.

Also enjoying the vicarious travel/plein air adventures.

willek said...

I had an appointment to show some paintings to a gallery in Rockport, many years ago. The woman had a salesman there and I had to wait. He was from Paris and had about ten tubes of rolled up finished canvases from many different artists and she was buying them un stretched. I thought that was interesting and had not imagined that art was bought by galleries like that.

Stapleton Kearns said...


Stapleton Kearns said...

I may have to try doing that, but you still would be hauling around big overly flexible panels.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Chick Connor as the rifleman, that was a while ago.

Stapleton Kearns said...

What you saw was probably production art. Mass produced junk from the orient sold for low money. They would often claim it was made by local artists but didn't have the big price because their artists weren't full of themselves.