Dire predictions of ice and snow put the kibosh on my plans to go to the Artist Materials Expo with friends today. The driving distance was just too great to deal with uncertainty over when and if the sleet, freezing rain and snow would begin. Since I couldn't go to this long-anticipated event, I consoled myself by rounding up every canvas in the studio I had fallen out of love with and gessoing over them. They included a 16x20 painting I had done years ago that I was never happy with, three big canvases and two smaller canvases I had started and later abandoned when my enthusiasm had waned in mid-stream, a demo canvas from my teaching days at KSU, and two brand new "virgin" canvases I had bought on sale somewhere, stashed away and had completely forgotten about.
So out came the gesso and I went to town. I used both the Utrecht brand (nice and thick with great covering power) and Liquitex, which does a good job on heavily textured surfaces. Each canvas was treated to two coats, which I applied with a 3 inch flat nylon utility brush. Between the two brands of gesso, all pre-existing colors and collage elements disappeared, leaving lovely fresh white surfaces on which to paint again. Please note: none of these canvases had ever been varnished. Once varnish is applied, you can't do anything further to a canvas painted and varnished with acrylic products!
Some artists never re-use their canvases, but I think it's perfectly acceptable. If the Masters re-used theirs (and they did, many times, as art conservators have discovered) then the practice is good enough for me. If I were working on a commissioned piece I'd start with a brand new canvas just on general principles, but if I create a painting on a recycled canvas and later someone comes along who wants to buy it I see no reason they shouldn't do so. In those situations most buyers have been quite fascinated with the idea of there having been "something else" underneath what they see. It makes for some interesting conversations between us, and it probably generates additional conversation once it's hanging in their home. Every good painting has a story. A painting done on a recycled canvas has more than one!
©2015 Lynn Edwards