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Many New Artists Believe Painting on Linen is Only for the Old Masters.

November 19, 2013

bouncing ball

In today's world, cheap, quick and easy are bywords. Painting on Linen is seen as too costly and difficult. Find out why you should consider it.The best of the 'Old Masters' painted in oils on linen canvas. Six hundred years later, many of their works are still around. Some credit must be given to the materials the Masters used. The canvas they used came in three types – jute, cotton and linen. The quality of each type is reflected in its cost. Linen is the most expensive, beyond the pocket of most beginners.

Time and patience are required for learning how to paint on linen. It's notorious for the 'slub' in its weave that makes fine detail harder to paint. As an organic fabric, any canvas absorbs moisture and will stretch and sag. Then, under pressure from the painter, it will bounce. Linen is known as among the worst in this regard.

However, in my opinion, linen is the best of all possible grounds for a painting.
In many respects, linen deserves its place as the finest of all cavas types. For artists, the advantages of linen canvas are many.

1.The subtle 'richness' that only a heavy grade of linen can impart.
2.Its weave gives a 'live' look to linen canvas and a substantial 'feel' as you work on it.
3.A bit of thought when choosing which edge will be at the top of your painting will avoid the problem of a 'slub' where some delicate element of your composition will appear.
4.The higher prices paid for paintings on linen than works on cotton canvas or board. 

In general, the public perception is that since 'The Old Masters' painted in oils on canvas, modern works made in this way are often considered more desirable. Paintings on linen are likely to do even better in the market because of their inbuilt durability.
 During a 36-year professional career, I began by painting on canvas-on-board, then on stretchers, finally on linen for the past 27 years. Most of these works on linen were painted here in Tropical North Australia. To date, I've never been contacted by a client worried about mould or mildew on any of my 400-plus paintings.
Galleries and collectors are aware of the simple reality that beginners and amateurs are unlikely to go to the expense and effort of importing linen. High grades are made in just two countries and orders are taken only by the roll, not the piece.

The long-term benefit of using linen is simply this: longevity of your work.
We can't predict the verdict of history on what we create. So, why not proceed as if our paintings may one day be as treasured as the work of the Old Masters?

Many artists, at the beginning of their careers, shy away from using linen. I don't blame them, as I well remember the early struggles I had with painting on linen. As your expertise advances and you exhibit and sell your artwork, your confidence increases. With knowledge of its benefits, you may consider linen a good investment in your long-term career.

BONUS_ The answer to the worst property of linen – its bounce – was recently revealed to me. In
my next article, I'll share it with you.

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