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From The Great Art Materials Blog: Canvases

From The Great Art Materials Blog: Canvases

by Jo York

We asked our GreatArt Blogger Jo York to put our bestselling canvas ranges to the test. Here is an insight into her findings, with the full feature available on The Great Art Materials Blog

“This month I’m looking at a range of pre-stretched canvases…useful actually as canvas choice is something I get asked about all the time.

Canvas, a brief background:

In Art terms, ‘canvas’ is a broad catch all term that covers all stretched fabrics which are used as supports for painting or other artwork….it’s wrong to think of it as only appropriate for ‘wet’ media, as many mixed media techniques are ideal on canvas, as is working in soft artists’ pastels. In practise, the term ‘canvas’ actually mostly refers to either cotton or linen, but many other fibres have been used, including; hemp, jute and silk, and also man-made fibres like polyester.

Canvas supports have been popular with artists since the fifteenth century, despite the fact that they require more preparation on the whole than alternatives.

© Jo York


For each canvas type, I experimented on a small canvas and then tried working on a larger version to give me a clear idea of how they performed. The larger tests are inspired by a recent visit to a very wintery and wet Venice, and are deliberately loose and semi-abstract in feel.

The Sketchbook page above shows my quick sketches and also colour swatches.

I started with: Honsell Naturelle

This is a 100% Linen canvas, with an excellent 350 gsm weight. These canvases have a
strong pine frame and the canvas itself is fine grained, and comes prepared with a clear
primer. I experimented with a range of media; gouache, acrylics, soft artists’ pastels and oils, and found that it was a really effective surface to work on. I did a white spirit test, in which I dripped some white spirit onto unpainted canvas to see whether it would pass through to the other side-this is a great test of the priming and the Honsell passed with flying colours.

© Jo York
  • Lovely canvas to work on.
  • Very easy to achieve accurate marks due to the fine grain of the linen
  • Nice spring and feel when working.
  • Accepted layers of paint, texture paste and impasto with no problems.
  • Glazed areas also worked well
  • Soft natural colour gave a subtle appearance to colours used.

Next I looked at the ILA range 100% Cotton canvas

© Jo York

This is a medium grained canvas with a universal primer. This is a really inexpensive canvas to buy, but I was surprised how well it performed with the same range of materials tests- it handled both acrylics and oils applied with brush and knife really well. I wouldn’t choose it for detailed work, but it really represents excellent value for money and is an ideal student/ sketch choice.

Next on my list was ILA 100% Cotton Canvas, with a triple coating and side tacks.

© Jo York

This canvas is 100% cotton again as with the previous one and also 300gsm in weight.
This version has side tacks as well as rear staples which gives the canvas greater stability
especially over larger sizes and in the longer term-the only trade off being that you can’t
use the sides.

  • Thick paint layers adhered well and caused no issues and scratching through paint surfaces, did not affect the integrity of the canvas underneath.
  • Nice canvas to work with; stable but with a positive ‘spring’.
  • Excellent value and budget choice-great to find a side tacked and triple coated canvas at this price point!

Gerstaecker Basic

© Jo York

Another 100% cotton canvas with a universal primer-it is also 300gsm and this time the canvas is double primed.I enjoyed working on this canvas, and felt it handled acrylics extremely well, across glazed, thickly layered impasto and multiple layers-I was also able to scratch back without damaging the underlying canvas in any way. The medium grain gives a nice tooth for textured effects and holds thick paint layers well.

Gerstaecker Studio XL is the last of the cotton canvases, I tried for this blog…

© Jo York

This is a 380gsm 100% cotton canvas, with an exceptionally deep 45mm deep frame profile. The frame is made in one piece which makes it much more stable and stronger than many other deep profile canvases.  took thick layers of both acrylic and oil paint with very good adhesion.
• Canvas felt exceptionally stable in use, and I suspect would remain so in large formats.
*Lovely deep canvas, ideal for expressive textural techniques.

Next is a 100 % Linen Canvas- Gerstaecker Classico

© Jo York

This is a 100% Linen canvas with a medium grain. It is exceptionally durable with a 450gsm weight, and really solid stretcher framing. I loved the heavy weight canvas which has a great feel. I also loved the quality and sense of stability…it feels very durable and hard wearing. The canvas surface was great with glazes and layers of glazes, as well as with texture paste and thickly applied paint. This isa great value for money choice, for a very good quality product.

And finally, the third of the linen canvases, Gerstaecker Excellence

100% Belgian Linen canvas on a quality frame. It has been prepared with a traditional rabbit size, for longevity and then further treated with two coats of primer. It’s a heavy weight canvas at 460 gsm and has a medium texture.

© Jo York

It felt really good to use, with a nice spring to the canvas and a pleasing tooth. Oil paint went on like a dream with a really nice handling quality, and the acrylics also performed really well in glazes, thick layers and with brush and knife. I found I really enjoyed working with this canvas. It gave me enormous confidence in terms of being able to work in multiple layers, in a vigorous manner with no risk of damaging the canvas surface.This really is a superior canvas at a very reasonable cost.

© Jo York
© Jo York

Visit the blog to read Jo’s full write up and see the list of materials used in this trial!
The GreatArt Materials Blog

All images are © Jo York

Find all Jo’s posts published in GreatArt online Magazine by clicking here!

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1 comment

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  • Very useful article which will help me make a more informed buying decision next time I look at canvases.