Craters and Bubbles

The back of a bucket of gesso has instructions on how to get a smooth surface on your canvas, and gives silly advice such as using fine-grained sandpaper in between coats, thinning the gesso with water, and so on. A painting is simply that, it’s paint on a canvas. Pretending otherwise does a disservice to the viewer.

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Texture is my friend; I like seeing the thread of the canvas, bubbles and brushstrokes in the gesso, and I do my best to encourage these features in my work. Of course, this could be simply that I’m too impatient an artist to meticulously render a photograph-like image on the canvas. I could probably do this; I learned how to do it in art school, at least with a pencil, but it’s no fun at all.

I’d rather let the whims of how the turpentine flows, how the canvas responds to a brush, and how well the paint mixes that day determine what I end up painting. Producing a pitted and scarred canvas is simply adding to that process.

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Right now, I’m working on a painting of a schoolbus. The bus itself is fairly straightforward; various shades of yellow and orange, with a very dark brown for the undercarriage, matching the color of the silhouetted house in the distance. I added the sky last night, and one would think that light blue would add very little to an image. One would be wrong.

The sky fades from darker to lighter blue, to almost white in some places. The nitrogen brushstrokes add an energy to the painting that changes it significantly, from a static scene to one with a coiling, angry energy. As I painted the blues, the imperfections in the canvas kept getting in the way, sometimes making me change my plans, sometimes enhancing what I was doing.

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With a flat, static canvas, I can pretty much tell you how a canvas will turn out; However, with a canvas like the surface of the moon, it feels like I’m painting on a wall or a floor, at the mercy of whatever fell on the canvas and dried there.

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I have a drawer in my cabinet of art supplies that’s filled with canvas strips and scraps, left over from other canvases; perhaps I should stitch them together. Anyone have any thoughts as to what such a Frankencanvas should hold?

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