Choosing A Support For Your Painting

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I was at a nationally known craft store the other day and was just browsing around at all the fun and new items for artists and crafters.

It’s like going to a candy store with all the selections that are available today.

If my wallet would let me, I’d take one of each.

I was surprised, but not shocked, to see burlap canvases available. Burlap has become an almost essential part of rustic or shabby chic decorating, so it was just a matter of time until some enterprising manufacturer figured they’d make full use of this decorating trend.

I’m not a fabric snob, but burlap is not known as one of the most stable fibers around. It’s not going to be an archival support for an oil or acrylic painting, so keep that in mind if you thought you’d try out this new painting support.

When Is It Okay To Use Inexpensive Supports?

That burlap canvas kept nagging at me, so I thought we’d look at different types of supports for the artist. If you’re doing something for purely decorative purposes and don’t expect the work to outlive you, then feel free to play with whatever strikes your fancy or fits your budget.

A burlap canvas would be perfect for a holiday picture or quote to hang in your entryway every winter. It would also be great for a colorful accent for your lake cottage, or a cute decorating piece painted with children’s images for a nursery. These items are generally time sensitive, both in terms of suitability and time between redecorating projects. After a few years it will be time to replace them with something else, so it doesn’t matter that the paintings aren’t archival in nature.

If you’re a student and doing studies, classroom work or copies of master works for educational purposes, you don’t need to worry about archival supports. Choose paper and canvas that’s suited for the style of painting you’re doing, but buy supplies that allow you to feel free to make mistakes. If you’re constantly watching every penny you’re spending on your supports, you’ll feel less likely to experiment.

If you’re painting on canvas, you may consider canvas board or canvas pads for classroom work. These canvases are inexpensive and are easy to transport to and from your class.

Watercolorists and pastel artists have a wide choice of papers available. There are many different thicknesses or weights of paper, and a number of finishes are manufactured for different medium applications.

You can use a thinner grade of your preferred finish to save on paper costs, but try to stick with the finish that gives you the texture you want for your piece. Manufacturers also vary in their pricing structure, so you may be able to save by switching brands.

When Should An Artist Spend More On Supports?

Regardless of how long you’ve been painting or how professional you feel your work is, there are still times you may want to use inexpensive supports. You’re always learning and experimenting, taking classes and taking risks. It’s always a good idea to keep a variety of less expensive supports for studies, demonstrations and experiments.

However, if you’re putting your heart and soul into a painting, you will want to paint on a surface that won’t degrade or deteriorate. Do some research to make sure a proposed support is suited for its intended use.

This is especially true for pieces that are in an exhibition or a gallery. You want to put your best foot forward when you’re exhibiting your work. A saggy or poorly prepared canvas does nothing to make your work look professional, and wavy or wobbly paper just looks cheap and amateur. Your artwork will look more professional when it’s presented on a proper support and mounted or framed in an appropriate manner.

A commissioned piece really demands good quality paper or canvas. This client thinks enough of you to pay actual money for your talent. You owe it to your clients to use very good quality materials in your artwork.

Even if you’ve only been painting a short while, try to procure a few good quality supports. You’re sure to grow in your abilities and soon be ready to try a piece on a quality canvas or thick and creamy 100 percent rag paper. Maybe you’ve got a special someone who would love one of your paintings, or perhaps there’s a student show that you’d like to enter. Even if you’re still a beginner, your painting will look a lot better if it’s on a nice, properly stretched canvas or firm, flat piece of watercolor paper.

Craft stores and online art supply sellers are always running a sale of some sort. Do a little digging and come up with a coupon, take advantage of a sale and get yourself some really good supports. You’ll thank yourself in the long run, and you’ll enjoy working with the superior quality materials.

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