STUDIO: Stretcher Construction

Stretcher 2

A stretcher support for a new canvas, 36″ x 36″

I’ve written before on starting a new painting from scratch: Creating a Canvas.

It’s an elaborate process, involving lumber and quarter round, wood joiners and brad nails, a miter saw and a staple gun, gesso and sandpaper. It’s a big savings over buying prepared canvases, but that’s just one facet of it. There is a sense of thoroughness and craft I get from working on a support I built myself. I will use store bought canvases as well, but my most significant pieces were done on stretchers I’ve constructed myself.

This time I’m taking the process back a step further, and showing the underlying framework.

Today I’ve built another stretcher for a major painting, another 36″ by 36″ piece. The key to the way I build stretchers are these vicious looking little metal plates, which are called wood joiners:

Wood joiners

More than once in my painting career I’ve carelessly knelt on one these while building a stretcher; I don’t recommend it.

These days I’m using poplar wood for my supports. It’s an inexpensive soft wood which takes the wood joiners well, and it’s usually straighter and smoother than the pine wood I used to use. After using my chop saw to cut 1″ x 2″ lumber to the correct lengths, I use the wood joiners to fasten the pieces together. Then I nail quarter round molding to the outer edge on one side of the frame.

quarter round

Quarter round molding

This will elevate the stretched canvas material off the wooden supports, creating a smooth surface to paint on.

Stretcher 1

Detail shot: quarter round nailed on 1″ x 2″s, held together with wood joiners

This was the method I was trained in when I went to art school at Virginia Commonwealth University. I’ve experimented with other methods in the years since, but I never found anything else that worked as well.

I intend this new canvas to be a companion piece to the painting I covered in my last series on a work in progress, “A Tale of the Forked River.” It was enjoyable to share the developments as I worked out painting issues of the course of many weeks, running from March 15, 2015, to July 1, 2015. See the entries here:

Creating a Canvas

Painting in Progress 1

Painting in Progress 2

Painting in Progress 3

Painting in Progress 4 – Completion

A Tale of the Forked River

The finished product, completed June 28, 2015:

“A Tale of the Forked River” acrylic on canvas 36″ x 36″

I have the vision for the new painting. For the moment it exists only in my mind, so there is nothing to show yet. But the title will be “What Does It Take to Make a House Haunted?”

I can’t wait to get it going, so everyone can see what I was shown.

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8 thoughts on “STUDIO: Stretcher Construction

  1. “More than once in my painting career I’ve carelessly knelt on one these while building a stretcher”
    Got your attention pretty quick I bet.

  2. This is only slightly O/T, but my work experience of many years is of large and heavy construction. It is a world of straight lines and angles of the horizontal and vertical. Because of this I can see these lines almost instantly anywhere. What I did not expect was to be able to see the variations from vert and horiz in the natural world just as easily. Surely it must be the same with artists what with your focus on perspective etc…..

  3. Very interesting. As a painter I find it is color connections that jump out at me-for instance, I could be loading up the conveyor belt at the grocery store register, and every package design with purple in it will leap out at my eyes. I see a strange pattern to it.

  4. Yes, that’s what I mean. It’s just there even when you’re not particularly looking for it. I understand what you mean about “strange pattern”, but it’s always been there we just usually don’t see it. It’s that “blindness” that I find strange.
    Oh, by the way in my world I have just as many silly self regarding people as there are in the art world.

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