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So I am someone who usually buys my canvases, but a friend pointed out to me recently that I "should" stretch my own canvas. So what do you think? Is it something I really ought to do, or is it simply preference?
I was given some stretchers by someone who used to paint and stopped. But stretching is annoying and ready-made canvases aren't that expensive. So in general, if I want standard format I buy a ready made canvas, if I want a weird size ( I'm a big fan of 20"x36") or if it's a size I already have stretchers for, I will stretch is myself. I have never tried to stretch very large canvases, but I suppose it's a whole different beast, if you want good tension.
Really, it's a choice and don't let someone tell you what you should or shouldn't do (realize that I'm telling you this, so you can take it with a grain of salt.)
We learned to stretch 'em in school, but I'm lazy so I've pretty much always bought pre-stretched since I graduated...
Honestly, there's nothing wrong with pre-stretched canvas as long as you buy the good quality kind and not the chintzy kind. And there's a huge range of sizes, shapes and quality to choose from these days. Some stores even sell fancy hand-stretched artisanal canvas, which are exactly the same as what you would get if you stretched your own except someone else has stretched it for you.
I buy. There was a special on Winsor and Newtons here a few days ago so I took advantage.
This last year or two, I've generally just bought them.
That said, I think it's something that you should know how to do.
Knowing how to do stuff is cool.
I do both. I like Claessens double oil primed linen, it is heavy and no commercially stretched linen or canvas comes close. When I have the time or an important commission or job I use that to stretch and make my panels with but because I paint so much (200 to 300 paintings a year I use commercial oil primed linen from the big box art stores for studies and outdoor work. Stretched linen for studio work and linen applied to panel for outdoor work. I stretch everything over 24x36 and panel everything under 20x24 in between I do both. depending on whether i'm painting outside or not.
You guys are so lucky to be able to find decent stretched canvases at stores, I have to stretch my own because the store quality here is so horrible. Now I've moved on to hardboard like vineris though, takes up less space and is easier to mass produce than canvases.
Board is also much better from a preservation standpoint, if the boards are manufactured correctly at least from what I remember.
As others have said, you should learn how to do it, then decide it it's worth it to you. Also, try other kinds of supports and grounds.
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when i was at uni, with a large workshop and free materials, yeah. nowadays, no. i just want to get down to business.