behind the scenes — stretching a canvas

I know painters who have painted many years and have never stretched a canvas.  That’s fine… but, there are several reasons why I do it and thought you might like to see how easy it is.  If you can wrap a package you can do this!

Here’s the canvas rolled out on the studio floor.  (I bought 3 yards of unprimed 60″ wide canvas at the art store.)


Next, I place the stretcher bars face down on top.  The photo makes it look like a square, but the actual size is 4′ x 5′


I use this electric staple gun by Bostitch and it works great.  You can find one at your local hardware store.


Next staple the canvas in the middle of each side.  Do not pull tightly… pull just enough that there are no wrinkles.  Also, make sure that the sides of the stretcher bars are running parallel to the weave of the canvas before stapling.


Proceed to staple once every 4 inches or so starting at the middle staple on each side and going to the corners.


Fold the cloth at the corners like you would wrap a present and staple (I usually put a few extra staples at the corners.


Now the canvas is ready for gesso.


Gesso is used to create a barrier between the canvas and the oil paint.  If this is not done, the oils in the paint will eventually rot the canvas.  The first coat of gesso is thinned with water to a cream like consistency.


Now brush the thinned gesso onto the canvas using a large brush.  Make sure it goes into the weave and brush in all directions.

*** Most important****– start from the center of the canvas and work out.  The canvas starts to shrink and pucker when it gets wet.  See… you didn’t have to pull the canvas tight at the start because it will “shrink wrap” itself when it gets wet (like a pair of jeans that haven’t been pre-shrunk).


I usually do a cross pattern like below and then fill in the remainder diagonally  ie. upper right, then lower left, etc.


So here it is with the first coat finished.  It’s tight with no wrinkles.  Two more coats (not diluted) will be brushed on to complete the gessoing.  Let each coat thoroughly dry (about 24 hours) between coats.  It’s next to the canvas I worked on last week (which is unfinished).

Oh, and the reason I go through all this is to have the flexibility of getting the exact size canvas I want.  Maybe I want a 30″ x 45″ or 36″ x 54″ or 40″ x 50″ canvas… these are not standard and the art store doesn’t have these.  But they do sell stretcher bars in numerous sizes.


“Fin”ale – Aloha!

Things are moving at a turtle’s pace in the studio this past week.  I am wiping off paint after spending many hours putting it on, and that is not a good thing…So I thought I would share this last bunch of photos from Oahu (I promise it’s the last).

Hope you enjoy them.  Click on them to see very large.


The aquarium just south of Waikiki is one of the best I’ve ever seen.  The fish are amazing and the tanks are beautifully designed.


Hanauma Bay is THE place to go snorkeling.  I now wish I had looked into getting a prescription lens for snorkeling (I am very near sighted) so I didn’t go in.


My husband had a great time and was able to get inches away from the fish. The great thing about this place is that they severely limit the number of people here.  The parking lot fills up early and then they turn people away.

IMG_3791Waikiki Beach from the top of Diamondhead.

IMG_3786Every evening the sunset was spectacular and people would just hang out on Waikiki Beach for the show.  The pink hotel is one of the oldest — the Royal Hawaiian.


silver serenity

(click on photos to see large)

view from Diamondhead
we hiked up the trail to the top of  Diamondhead –the view was so worth it
Hanauma Bay snorkelers
Hanauma Bay snorkelers
green sea turtle
green sea turtle coming ashore at Hanauma Bay

This beautiful creature inspired my most recent painting.  We got to see him up close

before an area was roped off to keep people away.


silver light off Waikiki Beach
silver light off Waikiki Beach

~ see you next year!

detail of a painting in progress © Anita C. Miller

Dear fellow bloggers, I will be taking the rest of the year off from blogging.  See you in 2013!  I wish everyone a very happy holiday season.

Best wishes!


Small Things

“Barn Swallows and Bugs”, 8″ x 10″, oil on board, © Anita C. Miller

There is a small delay sometimes between when I push the camera’s shutter button and

when I hear the shutter activate.  The swallows (maybe 50 of them) are flying around

very fast trying to catch bugs.  All photos then, are purely accidental… I like that.


Rain and Riptides

“Rain and Riptides”, 8″ x 10″ , oil on board, © Anita C. Miller


 strong winds

thousands of white caps

–one very brave (crazy!) windsurfer


lonely windsurfer far offshore on Lake Michigan north of Chicago – click on image to see large

#30 — untitled (Great Blue heron)

9″ x 12″ study– oil on canvas

click on photo to see large– this guy is so beautiful!

the dead trees (snags) give nice diagonals

photos are from Middlefork Savanna forest preserve in Lake Forest, IL 

all content and images © Anita C. Miller 2012

Early evening along the lake

click on images to view large

view from Northwestern University looking south.  Chicago skyline in distance.

another view looking south toward Chicago from NU.

looking East over Lake Michigan from NU campus.  Ah! peace and quiet!  An absolutely perfect evening.

I may take up some plein air painting this summer!  I can’t get enough of this view in summer.