The preparation for a painting is as important as its final image. The quality of materials and their use will influence an artworks characteristics and durability. Whether creating or living with art, it is advantageous to be familiar with what affects an artworks appearance and structure.
Here is a general outline for stretching canvas onto a stretcher.
You will need a custom-built or commercial ready-made stretcher, canvas pliers, a staple gun and non-corrosive staples. Stretcher bars that angle inward and away from the stretched canvas will inhibit the development of bar imprints into the painted canvas. Include cross bars to stabilize large stretchers. Square up the stretcher by using a right angle along its sides. Measure across the diagonal corners for equal measurements.
Select canvas or linen fabric. The weight of your fabric should correspond with the painting technique. Thick applications of paint require a heavier fabric. Cut a fabric piece allowing ample margin to stretch and extend over the edges to the back of the stretcher. On a flat surface, position the assembled stretcher on the fabric. Align the fabrics weave parallel to the edges of the stretcher, keep threads straight during stretching.
The canvas can be temporarily tacked at each corner. Begin stretching and attaching the fabric at the mid-point of each stretcher side. Rotate and evenly stretch the fabric, attaching it to the stretcher at close intervals. Staple along the narrow sides or along the verso side of the stretcher. Continue until approximately two inches from each corner. Fold and tuck unattached corners and staple to back of stretcher. Insert the wedges or keys. Do not over-stretch the canvas. It will tighten up with sizing and gesso.
An artwork may require re-stretching if distortion or ripples in the support occur. Alternatively, an artwork might be removed from its stretcher for transport or storage. Generally, if the painting is flexible and not brittle, a re-stretching may be done with out difficulty.
The major concern with re-stretching is creating cracks or actual loss of paint. Over-stretching can cause radiating cracking along the outer edges of the artwork, and distortion. Rips and tears can also occur. Improper stretching can weaken the painting or affect the appearance of the artwork. Usually, distortion requires conservation treatment prior to re-stretching. If the painting has a rigid paint layer, an aged support, or flaking paint, consult a conservator.
For more information visit the FACTS (Fine Art Care and Treatment Standards) website at www.artfacts.org.
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