Canvas or Panel? Panel

I have a love hate relationship with both canvas and panel/wood surfaces. For years now, I have been working on panel, I like how flat it is, easy to transport, and looks mighty nice when varnished. There is a problem though — dust, fuzz, hairs, dirt. It shows up and is more obvious on panel than canvas. I went from working in at home, where my cat would shed and sometimes jump up and rub his fuzzy ass on my wet artwork. Going through with tweezers and such never got everything out, and after a coat of varnish, the spots I missed became more pronounced. Then I moved into my studio last May, but, I moved in with a fiber artist into a 100 year old former car factory…yeah, lint, grime and fuzz, it happens.

In taking steps to get rid of as much crap on surfaces as I could before varnishing, I’ve found that fine sandpaper with a bit of turp or linseed works great and doesn’t take off the layer of paint. I also followed advice I found online about using shop towels instead of paper towels for wiping off my brushes etc…

It works great, and does not contain as much lint and fibers as a cloth or paper towels. I actually used it to dry wipe a painting done 10 months ago and was shocked at how much dirt came off of it! Shop towels are oh-so handy!

So canvas. I love it, the skin tones are easier to work with, I like the feel of rubbing paint deep into the nooks and crannies of the canvas. Plus, it seems to age better and the paint can breathe in a way. I just hate it when it gets droopy or warps with the weather changes (although it isn’t an issue if they are thick). My newest series I’ve been doing on canvas, and I was thinking of going back to it for good — that is, until this large painting came home to me looking like this…..

And this is only the main damage, there’s more bizarre indentations near the bottom.  I’m running over in my head how this could have happened, all the scenarios, and how this obviously wasn’t damage caused by shipping alone since the other painting — done on panel — in the same box was unharmed as well as the packing material in tact. She traveled to Art Basel, DC, and more. No problems, until she finally came home. Thank you Mercury Retrograde!!!

I think this is the universe telling me that canvas is too delicate and I should stick with the panel despite the dust, fuzz, and hairs that drive me crazy. I’m currently weighing my options as far as having this painting repaired (a pro job is just too expensive), it looks like I will be doing it myself even though I’m totally inexperienced at it, but I guess it is good to know these things. I know it will never be restored to the same glory as it once was, but I’m so thankful to have enough friends who are art handlers and work in restoration who have advised me the past 2 days during this crisis. I actually cried for several hours after staring at this damage. I didn’t know I could care so much; besides the fact I never cry about anything!

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4 Responses to “Canvas or Panel? Panel”


  1. 1 OneMoreTime 04/19/2010 at 8:45 pm

    Holy Crap…I’d be LIVID and I’d have cried, too!
    Especially since you KNOW it had to have happened during a show
    and NO ONE had the guts to tell you-apologize-offer to pay you for it
    or at least pay to get it fixed. Cheap and/or cowardly weaselbutts.
    I mean, even a small piece of art feels like it’s your child…it’s your creation, same deal.
    Hope you can figure out who’s ‘watch’ it happened on. Then you should out them on your blog….bet you’re not the only one! And it’d be a service to other artists out there who might be thinking of doing business with them.

    As for Milkshake, he just has good taste! He’d give you a thumbs up if he had thumbs….but he doesn’t…just a fuzzy butt. 🙂

    BTW, thanks for the shop rags tip. I’m so out of the loop in Mama land that I didn’t even know they came in rolls…is that the brand you use? Can you just buy them at TrueValue or something? I don’t work in oils, but I’d bet they’re handy for clay-related slops and other stuff.

  2. 2 vendettabella 04/19/2010 at 8:51 pm

    For the record, the gallery owner was NOT happy, we don’t know how exactly it happened still, as this was the only piece of art damaged in a huge group show. But we’ve reached an agreement about compensation in accordance with their contract, so that part has been settled at least.

    I bought these towels at the little hardware store in Rocky River, so I would assume a big chain would totally have them. I just started using them and am hooked!

  3. 3 fatimaronquillo 04/21/2010 at 11:02 am

    So sorry about the damage… I’ve only had a canvas rip once… self inflicted though… clumsy me… LOVE Scott shop rags. I buy them in the big box and won’t use anything else. I too struggle with the lint and do the whole tweezer thing. When I varnish if I notice lint on the surface that’s already been varnished over, I just pick off with a tiny brush wetted with oms or varnish. Never tried the sandpaper trick though, thanks. I also used to use tack cloth to pick up excess dust/lint on a dry painting. Have you tried canvas mounted on panels? It’s my alternative surface and it gives best of both worlds… no canvas warping/tearing, firm painting surface etc. Utrecht makes excellent ones.

  4. 4 vendettabella 04/22/2010 at 2:29 pm

    I’ve tried the canvas mounted ones, but always fear they will begin peeling off after years of climate change and whatnot. Maybe the fear is unfounded?

    I sometimes also use masking tape just to lift off junk, but the sandpaper and all of that needs to be done before the varnish. People say the white cat hairs that appear in many of my paintings will be how art restorers identify my work hundreds of years from now — you know — when I’m all famous many years after I die.


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