In August 2020, I began experimenting with a unique way of prepping my canvases. Until now, my go-to method was just a traditional form of support for my paintings. I would take canvas or linen, hand-stretch it, and then back-staple it onto wooden stretcher bars. While I still often use these types of supports, I have changed by first building and staining an oak or maple frame before stretching Belgian linen with with sinew thread. Using this new process, I have completed three large paintings along with one nearly done and two more prepped and ready to go. (I bought some wood and will do a video demo for a future blog :)
When I came up with this idea, I needed to fit a series of paintings in one tube to take on an international flight. Sounds a little strange, I know, but I needed to get them to and exhibition on a time crunch and was not going to risk them getting damaged in the shipping process. I needed the canvases to lay flat so I could place them into the tube. In my first attempt, I stapled the canvas to directly my studio wall. But soon after missed the feel of the brush on a bouncy canvas.
Intuitively, I drew from lessons learned as a child growing up in in rural Kentucky. I thought about such things as strapping quilts onto wooden supports; stretching deer hides for tanning; and preparing looms for weaving rugs (go ahead imagine "Dueling Banjos" in the background).
Naturally, I chose to stretch Belgian linen into hard wood supports with imitation sinew. For those unfamiliar with sinew, it is an extremely strong thread made from fibrous bands of animal tissue known as tendons. Sinew contains natural proteins that act like glue and shrinks as it dries so there is has little or no need for knotting. Unfortunately, sinew is a pain to work with because it must be soaked, smells weird and comes in odd lengths because you're pulling individual fibers. I chose to use a synthetic man-made version of sinew. It is equally as durable, archival, coated in beeswax, comes on an enormous spool and is uniform in width and color.
Though the process began, as a means to the end (getting canvases flat), I ended up falling in love with the process and outcome. I imagine a future exhibition of these large paintings all strapped with imitation sinew into beautifully stained oak or maple frames. For me, I enjoy the contrast between the rawness of the outer materials and the refined imagery I display within. It allows my attention to first be drawn to the elaborate fantasy before being pulled back to reality by the simplicity of just linen, sinew and wood.