Cheap Canvas vs. Expensive Canvas
Why should I invest my hard earned Artistic dollar in a quality stretched canvas?!
As an artist you are essentially selling yourself as a brand, therefore it’s up to you to decide what you feel is professional enough to sell or exhibit. Your artistic name is going to be associated with your paintings, and you have to choose whether or not you are wanting to promote a certain professionalism with those choices.
I personally try to use the best quality of paint and surface I can afford, mostly because I like using those materials, but also because it’s what I want to represent my artistic brand and therefore me. The price you pay for paint and stretched canvases should be worked into your pricing structure anyway (thats a whole other blog!)So get the best you can afford!
The price difference when it comes to stretched canvas in particular is generally in the weight and quality of the canvas and the weight and quality of the stretcher bars but also the quality of the gesso or primer.
Really cheap n’ cheerful canvas from China will start around 4 or 5 oz. canvas versus the more professional canvas up to around 12 or 14 oz. The main difference will be in the tightness of the weave (basically down to thread count). Cheaper/lighter canvas will tend to have more pinholes, and is much easier to tear and distort. Heavier canvas is better to paint on as its more stable with less bounce. Heavier canvases are also better if you’re going to be un-mounting and re-stretching the painting, because it will hold up better to the changes in tension.
Stretcher bars can come in various timbers and sizes. They are like the foundation to your painting and keep the canvas stable, they are there to keep the painting from twisting and turning. Thin knotty imported timbers tend to warp the most, especially at larger lengths, think made in China. Professionally made stretchers still can warp but tend to do so less often because there’s more wood to make them stronger.
I personally use clear and kiln dried timbers because of their stability. I also use 45mm x 45mm stretcher bars for their strength and brace anything over a meter in length to discourage any possible warpage. If you are using a heavy weight and well stretched cotton duck canvas it is a no brainer to use a quality stretcher bar too, a light frame will warp very quickly with a quality heavy weight canvas.
The quality of the primer or gesso can also be really important. That cheaply made canvas probably has one or two coats of cheaply made gesso with lots of pin holes. This is a big no-no especially for oil-based paints as it can promote the paint to flake, crumble, or crack right off the canvas. Usually, high quality canvas has a higher quality of primer or gesso. The grounds will be more absorbent much more flexible and usually there are more layers put on too.
Often imported (and sometimes local too!) canvases use a pre-primed type canvas, this means the canvas is primed prior to stretching. these canvases seem to be of the lowest end of surface quality because as they are stretched it opens up the canvas fibres which are not re-primed after stretching (which is a great reason to always re-prime and use a nice big brush!)
So…. if you value you paintings, and yourself as an artist, then you should value your stretched canvases too!