There is something beautiful about painting on your first canvas. It may be romantic, but painting on canvas holds a special place for any art and design student. This is a worksheet that takes students through producing their own stretcher and canvas. It also looks at some of the benefits that this can give to the project they are undertaking.

Painting on canvas is a really great experience. If you want your painting to be different and don’t want to adapt your image to the size of the canvas then making your own is probably the best option. There are lots of different ways to make a canvas stretcher, some are much more complex than others.

Stretcher and Canvas

For most students, painting on canvas is special but before reaching level 4 they won’t paint on canvas very often. If they do, then it is usually a ready-made as these speed up the production process and it means precious time isn’t given over to the actual production of the stretcher and the application of primer.

So why make your own? Well, the ready-made ones come in standard sizes. The smaller sizes are pretty cheap, but once you have seen 10 paintings all of exactly the same size and depth then they start to feel ‘student’ rather than ‘artist’. Very large ready-made canvases, beyond A0, become prohibitively expensive.

In my experience, it is when students start producing large scale painting that their work really becomes interesting. The canvas is made to fit the image, rather than the student actual changing what is in their imagination to fit the pre-designed canvas.

Moreover, when they have made their own stretchers and done all of the priming then they take what they are doing really seriously. Making the painting from scratch, by creating a support and work-ready canvas surface, gives them a better understanding of why they would use canvas in the first place and also an insight into the inherent properties of the material. Most students wouldn’t even really be able to explain why a canvas would be used for painting at all.

There are many ways to build a stretcher and this worksheet starts students off with a very simple, but effective method. If they enjoy the experience, then they can learn how to produce more rigid and advanced stretchers for further work.

Daniel Freaker Daniel Freaker Educational Consultant, Editor for Pearson Portfolio.