Canvas is an extremely heavy-duty fabric used for making sails, tents, marquees, backpacks, and other functions where sturdiness is required. It is also popularly used as a painting surface, typically stretched, and used on fashion handbags.
The word canvas is derived from the Arabic word for cannabis - hemp was popularly used to make canvas:-
Modern canvas is usually made of cotton. It differs from other heavy cotton fabrics, such as twill, in the way it is woven. Canvas has a very simple weave: the weft thread just goes over one warp thread and under the next. (The weft thread for twill goes over one and under two and each weft thread moves the pattern over one thread. The result is a diagonal pattern such as can be observed in the cloth use for blue jeans.) Canvas comes in two basic types: plain and Duck. The threads in Duck canvas are more tightly woven. In the USA canvas is graded two ways: by weight (ounces per square yard) and by number. The numbers run in reverse of the weight; so, number 10 canvas is lighter than number 4.
Artists usually use small (or sometimes quite large) pieces of canvas as a base for their works of art. This canvas is stretched across a wooden frame called a stretcher, and is coated with gesso before it is to be used (although some modern artists, such as Francis Bacon and Helen Frankenthaler, sometimes paint onto the bare, unprimed canvas). Early canvas was made of linen, a sturdy brownish fabric of considerable strength. In the early 20th century, cotton came into use. Cotton, which stretches more and has an even mechanical weave, is less preferred than linen by the professional artist. The considerable price difference, however, prompts many beginners, and even mid-level artists, to choose cotton over linen.
One can also buy small, pre-prepared canvases which are glued to a cardboard backing in the factory and precoated. However, these are only available in certain sizes, and are not acid-free, so their lifespan is extremely limited. They are usually used for quick studies. Pre-gessoed canvases on stretchers are also available. Professional artists who wish to work on canvas usually prepare their own canvas in the traditional manner.
One of the most outstanding differences between modern painting techniques and those of the Flemish and Dutch Masters is in the preparation of the canvas. "Modern" techniques take advantage of both the canvas texture as well as those of the paint itself. A novice artist often finds it nearly impossible to approach the realism of such classic art, despite skill in applying the paint. In fact, Renaissance masters took extreme measures to ensure that none of the texture of the canvas came through. This required a painstaking, months-long process of layering the raw canvas with (usually) lead-white paint, then polishing the surface, and then repeating. The final product had little resemblance to fabric, but instead had a glossy, enamel-like finish. Though this may seem an extreme measure to the modern painter, it is crucial if photographic realism is the end goal.
With a properly prepared canvas, the painter will find that each subsequent layer of color glides on in a "buttery" manner, and that with the proper consistency of application (fat over lean technique), a painting entirely devoid of brushstrokes can be readily achieved.
To un-wrinkle the material, use a warm iron (not a hot iron) over a piece of wet cotton to flatten the wrinkles.
Canvas can also be printed on digitally to create canvas prints. After printing, the canvas can be wrapped around a stretcher and displayed.
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