Raw canvas was on sale at my local art store recently for $0.75/foot. I was able to get two 3'x5' piece for only $7.50!! Wow. I've always wanted to paint on a larger size of canvas but was daunted by the price of big stretched canvases.
Raw or 'unprimed' canvas hasn't been painted/primed with gesso so it will soak up paint like mad. This makes it not as inexpensive as it may seem because you will spend a lot in paint when you use it.
I did some experimenting to find ways around this and am sharing the results, so far, with you here. This is an incomplete work in progress. I intend to leave this unstretched and use it as a wall-hanging when complete.
1. I washed the canvas in hot water with laundry soap and baking soda. I didn't wash anything else with these because I didn't want them to get bunched up and crease badly. I did not to use fabric softener.
2. Cut away shredded bits that had frayed at the cut ends. Then I dried the canvas in the dryer (once again NO fabric softener - it can prevent paint from adhering).
3. Removed from dryer right away and ironed. This would have been hard on an ironing board so I used the kitchen table. Because I had 2 pieces of canvas, I doubled them over so there were 4 layers of canvas between the table and ironing board at once, then flipped, rotated as needed to iron all of the canvas. I used a spray bottle to dampen the canvas and high heat.
What I was left with: the washing, drying and ironing shrank the canvas a bit and made the weave tighter. Exactly what I was hoping for.
My plan was to use watered down super cheap paint to cover the canvas so that I could paint on it later with less cheap paint. However, I think I am liking the look of this so much, that it will become the actual painting - not just a background. I used the Michael's store brand 2oz bottles that cost $0.69/bottle. I've covered tons of the canvas so far and used less than 5 bottles! Assuming I use 6 by the time I am done that will be $4 of paint. Far more affordable than gessoing the canvas.
I planned to make a big mess so I took this project out onto the deck with an old sheet under it (and books to weigh down corners due to wind).
I did some weeding:
detail of weeds which will serve as a 'resist', leaving areas unpainted under them:
Acrylic paint mixed with water (a bit more than half water) and sprayed using the Tulip Fabric Paint Cannon:
Spraying a layer of pink:
Adding a few objects and then spraying yellow:
Spraying white, then removing all objects:
detail of weed resist area:
I waited for the top layer to dry - very fast since it was a sweltering hot, sunny day.
Then I flipped the canvas over and and began applying the paint to the back with a big brush, adding water as needed with the brush. This side looks very primary but I will paint over it later and this canvas will become double-sided - I can rotate it on a whim :)
One of the parts of this piece that I love most is the way the colour gradation shows through in the three diagonal lines in the corner:
I put my second piece of canvas under the piece I was painting part way through - as soon as I saw what cool effects were bleeding through onto the old sheet. I wanted them on the blank canvas instead!
Would I do anything differently if I did this again?
Yes - first of all I would use more than one finger for holding down the spray nozzle! :-)
I also would leave more areas raw, with only sparse splatter on them, because of how much I love the bleeding through effect.