Sunday, June 13, 2010

Warming Up

Summer is about here, and San Jose is hot. Last evening, I could hardly wait for the sun to simply go away so it would stop heating everything up. Bonus: I now understand better the meaning of 'stifling.'

I have a commission on the easel that I am approaching gingerly. By that I mean I am avoiding it by any logical means possible. After stretching a canvas of Belgian linen and preparing to start, I noticed that there were slight ripples on the long edge of what should have been a taut canvas. I knew that the only remedy was to remove all the staples and start again. But I waited 2 hours to start removing staples.

It was Saturday, and I needed to ship the painting Wednesday.

In a moment of superhuman strength I snapped off one of the gripper heads of my canvas pliers — the pair I have had since art school over 30 years ago.

The cast metal just broke.

It was 4pm on a Saturday, and I had just removed the last staple from a fairly taut canvas, was now reattaching the canvas and tightening it up for my second staple when "Snap!" — now I had no way of reattaching the canvas.

Fortunately, a local art supply store had a pair, and I was able to buy a new pliers (is/are pliers singular or plural?) for a mere $32 and rush back home to try them out.

I mourned a bit for the loss of my old friend since college. How could it have happened just like that? They served me well for so long with not even a hint of being stressed.

After successfully re-stretching the canvas, I decided I had better practice painting, first... feeling a little rusty, I suppose. I painted a practice painting, and went to bed. Today, I must actually paint my commission.


David R. Darrow said...

@Axxman - I like that nail hunter idea. Thanks for pointing it out. Might have to add one to my ever-growing tool collection.

However, it would not help in this situation. I use staples and a pneumatic staple gun. And I used a small flat-bladed screwdriver to remove each staple. The key was to get the staple up without further weakening the canvas. A bit laborious, yes.

The wide grippers have matched opposites and grip the canvas, or in this case Claessens acrylic-primed Belgian linen, and they include on one side (the lower side when working) a fulcrum point for getting a good downward pull on the back of stretcher bars.

I noticed the new pair I bought (Fredrix; image) has a limiter at the end of one handle so that the handles cannot be squeezed past a certain tension.

I believe fabrics like muslin and bare cotton canvas do not require quite the pull, since they will likely be sized with hide glue or gesso either of which will tighten the fabric as they dry. (In fact, pulling raw fabric too tightly will distort the weave). I prefer the already-primed canvas and linen since they are ready-to-go once stretched. I have also found I get a remarkably tighter 'drum' stretch than commercial, ready-made canvases when I do it myself.

Jinx said...

I'm sorry for your loss Dave. I hope the new pliers will serve you well for many years to come :)