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Making canvas stretchers in the wood work studios 

Throughout the course I made my own frames, I came to love making the frames as I found it gave me breathing space from painting and also helped germination my ideas for my next painting.


It is really satisfying for me to know the stretcher that I paint on has been made by myself to the exact measurements for my perceived image .


I feel like the painting materialises  out of nowhere then, because the space that it sits on didn't exist until I had the notion to create it, therefore giving it ownership from the ground up.


This for me makes the whole process holistic as I've not only painted on the canvas  but made it, so it is my hand in all of it.

 Practically its also always reassuring to know how the canvas was made so you can be sure of the chemicals used.

180 x 130 cm stretcher made in workshop with 3 cross bars.

Once the frame  is made , I then stretch a heavy weight canvas(  more than 12oz) over the top which I bought off Tim Johnson, using canvas plyers , I held the canvas taut  while I stapled the canvas to the back 10 cm apart.I then folded the corners over 45 degrees.


Painting on top of rabbit skin glue

I think I'm in love with painting on rabbit skin glue.! I didn't expect how well the paint would absorb into the prepared surface, it seems to sink in and blends really easily. I don't think I can  go back to using gesso now as it seems artificial and is much more expensive.


Clear rabbit skin glue drying flat in the workshop

The Famous rabbit skin glue recipe by Tim Johnson,the most experienced expert painting and materials technician at Wimbledon College of Arts if not the whole of the London art  colleges!
 Prepare the glue.
 add water up to the rivets on the inside of the bain marie then added a plastic cup full of rabbit skin glue granules .
Stir and leave over night to expand and absorb water.
heat gently until consistency of unset jelly
leave to cool for 1/2 hour ( this is so that when you apply to stretched canvas it doesn't sink right through.)
Apply in one directional brush strokes with a wide brush keeping the canvas flat.
leave over night to dry.
repeat the 2nd coat.
Leave over night to dry 
Ready to paint with oil paint.
Because rabbit skin glue is hydroscopic, meaning it cant be stored in a damp place otherwise the layers will move away from each other and the paint will crack, the paintings will have to be stored in a dry place.

Example of oil paint on rabbit skin glue prepared surface

Distemper Ground.

Rabbit skin glue with pigment.

Tim Johnson again gave brilliant advice on how to prepare the pigment ground.

Prepare the rabbit skin glue as above.

then add choice of pigment ground colour  and taking into account the  desired strength  of colour.So for a 120 x 90 cm canvas, i would use half a bain marie of rabbit skin glue with 2 table spoons of pigment . Then  add a few drops of glycerine to soften the glue as when it dries the pigment can sometimes make it prone to cracking.


This method of applying  pigmented rabbit skin glue produces a coloured hue which I think if you apply oil paint thinly it gives a luminous effect to the work as it shows through.


 From Tim Johnsons notes:

Egg Emulsion Ground for rigid supports 

Add cracked egg to jar , using the shell to measure, add linseed oil to shell and water.Put the lid back on the jar and shake.

Add raw pigment and warm rabbit skin glue and keep mixing.

Apply first coat and leave for 3-5 days  then add a 2nd coat. 

apply rabbit glue size to the canvas first before putting the 2 layers on.


1/2 Chalk Ground ( Semi absorbent ground generally for a rigid support)

Sieve into a pan 1 part titanium white ( or other raw pigment) and 1 part mixing white. Mix the powders together.

add 1 to 2 parts warm rabbit skin glue to the above and stir gently.

let the pigment, whiting and Rabbit skin glue size mix slightly cool and then add at least a 1/2 part linseed oil and mix well in ( the oil will resist so you need to keep at least 1/2 part linseed oil and mix well( the oil will resist so you need to keep mixing the solution )

Brush the first coat well in, in quite a vigorous manner. allow to dry for 10 -15 mins before applying a 2nd coat.

once the ground is laid allow it to dry thoroughly - approx 10 days.

NOTE: If you want to put this ground on a flexible support add more oil as there is a chance of cracking.


Grinding Oil Colour 


Raw pigments

Cold -pressed linseed oil

Poppy Oil

Tools/Other Items 

Glass plate-sand blasted

Glass Mullier

Palette Knives

Empty paint tubes

General rule:pigment to oil is approx: 50 :50


On a glass plate mix the raw pigment and the cold pressed linseed oil into a stiff paste with a palette knife. ( looks like paint but is unstable in this condition.

take a small amount of this pigment/oil paste and place it in the centre of the sand blasted glass plate.

Grind it in a 'figure of 8' motion until the paint takes on a rich glossy texture. This indicates that all the pigment particles are surrounded by oil, making a stable paint.

use two palette knifes-one to mix the initial pigment oil paste, and the 2nd to transfer the ground oil paint  from the glass plate to the oil tube.

when tube is full, fold over end to make it air tight.

Glazing Mediums for oil Colour.

To give my work a glaze with a hint of colour,I used a pipette and put into a jar

1 pipette of Cold pressed Dammar varnish

1 pipette cold pressed linseed oil

2 pipettes low odour white spirit

a tiny speck of trans yellow

mix then apply a thin layer

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