All my paintings are composed and painted on commercially pre-primed and stretched canvas. I prefer the type of canvas that wraps all the way around the stretcher bar support. This allows me to carry the painting around the edge of the canvas giving it a more finished look. This also means the painting will not require a frame for display unless one is desired.
Gesso Primed Stretched Canvas
Even though the canvas I use has been pre-primed by the manufacturer, it’s not sufficient. Additional layers of primer need to be applied to provide adequate support for the pigment. Before I can begin a painting, the canvas must be primed and prepared to receive the oil paint. I apply two layers of gesso on the stretched canvas and allow each layer to thoroughly dry between coats. Then the canvas is lightly sanded to smooth out any rough spots. It is during this stage that I try to prepare as many canvases as I have on hand. This provides me with a ready supply of primed canvas to have on hand anytime inspiration strikes and I want to start a new painting.
Sketching The Image
After the canvas has been properly prepared, it is now time to start sketching the image on to the canvas. Every painting starts out as a simple grid drawn on canvas. This grid serves as an aid in placement of the focal point and other elements where they will best compliment the overall composition. Using a pencil or stick of charcoal, I begin sketching the image that will eventually become the painting. I try to make the sketch as detailed as I can making sure to include the shadow areas too. BTW, I don’t usually make my grid lines this dark. It’s best to keep them light. I only made them dark for the purposes of this example. I will erase them before the layer of underpaint goes on.
An underpainting is the first layer of paint to go onto the canvas and serves as a base for the additional layers of paint that will follow as the painting is developed. It is an important layer and is made up mostly of medium (a mixture of mineral spirits and linseed oil) and pigment. I use this underpainting layer to get rid of the stark white canvas surface and to begin blocking in color which also helps to define the basic outline of the image. I keep this layer thin making sure not to cover up my sketch lines. That will happen later as I develop the painting. Once the underpainting layer has dried, I begin laying in oil paint layer upon layer until the painting is complete.
Painting In Layers
I paint in layers and allow each layer to dry before applying the next. This takes longer to finish a painting, but this technique allows me to achieve the affect I’m working toward on each of my paintings.
After the painting is completed and has had opportunity to dry for a minimum of six months, I will then apply at least two coats of artist grade clear varnish to protect the painting and make the colors pop.
The Finished Painting
The Large White Dog
Pet Painting by Teresa Bernard
16″ x 20″
Oils on gallery wrap stretched canvas
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