Monday, September 14, 2009

Stretcher keys

Image by George Durrie.
George Durrie 1820-1863 gets called Currier and Ives a lot. He was one of the most popular artists supplying images to the lithographic firm of Currier and Ives. I have championed him to friends who roll their eyes because they find the art old fashioned. I like them a lot though, they are like much of the 19th century American painting, strongly Dutch influenced.

I will begin this post by announcing the meeting place for my workshop in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. We will meet at 9:00 on Saturday, September the 19th at the Civic Center parking lot, at 40 Main st. I have a full class and I am looking forward to meeting you all.

I am laying plans for several more workshops. If you would like to help me organize one where yopu live please let me know. I have been talking to an inn located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire near Franconia. I am tentatively thinking of doing a workshop there at the end of October. I don't know how long it will run, but I am kicking around the idea of a longer workshop, maybe five days. That would allow me to go deeper into the ideas I present that a weekend or three days. If you have an interest in this please let me know.( )

I want to spend this week on nuts and bolts. I did art history for a while , then autobiography, now I want to get real practical and talk about the back of the canvas. I am going to talk about stretchers, picture wire. fasteners that hold paintings in frames and also packing paintings for shipping. That should take at least a week.

Lets start with stretcher keys. They are those little wedge shaped wooden or possibly plastic things that either come in a little plastic badg or are conjoined to a plastic tree and stapled to the back of a prestretched canvas. I seldom use them. If a canvas is loose I generally will pull the staples out and restretch two sides. Stretcher keys are better left to the restorers down the line who may need to tighten up your canvas. If you do decide to use them use the wooden ones. The plastic ones are nearly useless, they also bend as you drive them in.Be careful as you hammer the keys in, if you hit the back of your canvas with that hammer you may damage it, and then its being loose on your stretcher will be the least of your problems. Use the stretcher keys very judiciously. If you key the stretchers out too much you may find your painting no longer fits in its frame.Some brands of prestretched canvas from China come with little scraps of wood that are not even triangular. I have no idea how they could be made to tighten a canvas. I think they just put them in for people who have no idea what they are for anyways but do expect them to be there.


Unknown said...

When someone can paint trees like that in winter, then they are qualified to roll their eyes. I love his paintings. As always, thanks for posting this.

Gregory Becker said...

I have so many of those lying around. My wife wants to throw them away and I keep telling her that they're important. I have never used them. I've always known what the are and how to use them via you tube, but I've never used them. Maybe I'll keep a couple of packs. lol
Hey Stape I've been meaning to ask you, They've just finished up Weekend with the Masters out in Colorado Springs...Are they're any events such as that, that you attend for inspiration or to challenge yourself or just to talk painting?

Philip Koch said...

Durie is one of those artists who suffered I believe from being too widely imitated by less talented followers. He did have a very good feel for winter and enveloping, moody atmosphere his imitators usually lacked.

Yea aren't those plastic stretcher keys creepy.

willek said...

I once bought a bunch of those off brand canvasses and they all had stretchers with the slots of too great a taper to hold a key!! That was really frustrating.I like to make my own canvasses and I love those keys but make my own to replace the plastic ones. I like a drum tight canvas, specially when painting with a pallet knife. But, I find, all canvases loosen when primed, so I am trying a roll of polyester canvas. So far, it is great. No need for keys at all. But I wonder how the material will hold up over time and about the bond between the gesso and the poly. I also wonder about what happens when strongly tightened paintings loosen after the paint has hardened to a brittle hardness. Any movement under the paint can't be good. I also wonder about bracing large canvasses with braces that do not expand to match the stretching when the keys are used. Braces should have keys within them,too. Now, think about that polyester down the line. It is tight when primed and painted on. your painting gets sold to a museum and is on display for 100 years... the stretchers begin to rot,say, so it has to be re stretched. Once the tension is released from the removal of the tacks or staples, the whole job has to move under the painting. That cannot be good. Did you get a place in Maine?

Stapleton Kearns said...

There's one in favor anyway,I love the way he paints trees

Stapleton Kearns said...

I am so busy I never get to those sorts of things. I was on a panel symposium a year or two ago at the Cape Cod Museum of Art. I have friends with whom I routinely paint, so I don't lack for the conversation.I also am in an art organization or two that gives me an intersection with painters.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Philip:I have to confess, I have all sorts of cheezy Durrie "collectables" that I haul out at Christmas. I have ornaments and cookies tins and coffee cups, and I think I might have a hat.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I tried the polyester canvas, Fredrix Red Lion. It was OK though I felt the surface was rather hard. It did stay taut though.I can't imagine why it wouldn't be archival as can be.
The restorers can line a painting if it needs it, If a museum buys it and I am dead, ity becomes their problem. Restoreres do remarkable things. My current canvas is Scarlett O'Hara by Fredrix. It is an oil primed, lead grounded COTTON. I like it OK, I like Claussens 12 to paint on, but I got tired of its always going slack.
Maine? maybe................Stape