The Artwork of Michael Divine

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How to Get the Perfectly Smooth Canvas

February 7th, 2008

In this not-so-continuing series on “How to be an Artist”, I will share with you now the secret to attaining a perfectly smooth canvas while maintaining just the right amount of texture, which is almost none. This secret isn’t one you will find mixed in with the mystery of the carp eye or anything of the like in Dali’s “50 Secrets of Master Craftsmanship” for it was not a technique available to him at the time. Sure, he had sandpaper, but did he have a DeWalt power sander? I think not.

First, start with your canvas, cut to your desired size. Gesso it with a thick gesso (I’m using Blick Artist’s Acrylic Gesso which has a thick impasto like quality). Make sure your brushstrokes are smooth and even, leaving as few bristle lines as possible. Let it dry. But do not stare at it! It will never dry! For a moment of diversion, please check out the online art piece, “Watching Paint Dry”. If you have had enough of that, stride on over to Zombo.com, where anything is possible.

Now, the next day, after everything that has been attained at Zombocom, after the canvas is dry- we gesso it again!

Let dry 8 – 12 hours.

When it is dry with two THICK coats of gesso, spread it out on the smoothest flattest surface you can find: a single panel, flat door for instance or a piece of masonite, but definitely something totally smooth. If you like, tear a chunk of your wall out, or rip a door off of one of your closets, just make sure it is large enough to tape your canvas to. The smoothness of your surface will affect the condition your canvas. You didn’t have any rocks or pebbles or ANYTHING underneath the canvas while you sand it because if you do, the sander will grind down upon it and cause for a hole to appear. While the hole is patchable (a little tape on the back, a little paint on the front, it is still unsightly so anyway…

Now you take your super duper power sander, makeing certain that it has a nice fine grain paper (not too fine or it won’t do a thing to the canvas, but not too coarse or it will scratch it up) and, with the canvas spread out evenly on your flat surface, without any creases, on the smooth surface, proceed to pass over it, in even yet firm strokes with the sander, which, of course, is switched on.

Back and forth, back and forth, in even strokes… til you have passed over the canvas a couple of times and it feels smooth and soft. A little texture is great because it will pick up the paint but it won’t be the rough canyons that are generally the bane of pre-primed canvas or even gessoed non-sanded canvas.

So you pick up the canvas, dust it off, and marvel at the smoothness.

The Artwork of Michael Divine

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