As I am getting older I see that I am having a hard time carrying large panels around the studio and moving many paintings that are so heavy to galleries. I have only been using wooden panels but want to paint larger than 24″ X 24″ and decided that there has to be another way to paint in encaustic and use raw canvas for my paintings. Many artists have warned me not to work on canvas because the wax surface could crack if a painting did not have a solid backing. After doing a lot of research, I have witnessed artists such as Tony Scherman, Lora Murphy, Paco Benitez and Leslie Newmann, to name a few, paint with pigmented beeswax on canvas. Some like Sherman and Murphy paint directly on canvas stapled around wooden stretcher frames. Murphy uses beeswax and mycrocrystalline. I have talked to Lora Murphy and she says that she has had no trouble with her paintings cracking. Leslie Newman paints her larger paintings on hard core foam panels. She paints layer of encaustic gesso on the surface of her panels before beginning to paint in encaustic. Additionally, I watched a YouTube demonstration on the restoration of an Ansel Kiefer painting. Kiefer’s painting, made with different materials on canvas, had become unstable so the conservationist at the museum added the foam panels. It was the firmness of the foam that stabilized Kiefer’s painting.
So, over the past two months I have been experimenting by adding 1/2″ foam paper backings behind raw canvas and then stretching the canvas around the top layer of the foam and stapling to a wooden stretcher and it works. My paintings are light and have a solid surface to work on. The following are the steps of my experiment.
Picture 1: I bought a wooden canvas stretcher, two sides and two bottoms, that are 20″ X 24″. I then bought two foam panels and butted them together and glued them to the edges of the wooden stretcher bars and taped them together.
Picture 2 is the side view of the foam panel on the stretchers.
Picture 3: The back of the panel. As you can see, the foam panel is in the front of the stretcher bars and I glued only the foam panel to the wooden stretcher and stapled the canvas to the back.
Picture 4: I bought raw canvas and pulled the canvas around the panel and the wooden stretcher. I then stapled the canvas at the back of the panel. As you can see in this picture the canvas was not that flat on the front but after painting encaustic gesso onto the surface it flattened the surface totally down after it dried.
Picture 5: Painted the surface with encaustic gesso and it became completely flat against the panel.
The following are the completed painting steps.
Picture 1 the painted background. I use a heat gun to fuse the surface but fuse lightly. Once the layers are established, I can fuse a bit more rigorously. I do wear a mask when I fuse just incase there are fumes coming from the panels. I have not experienced any foam smell because there is a thick canvas barrier and a paper covering between the wax surface and the foam surface.
Painting 2 the background fused, finished and ready to add the lines.
Painting completed. 20″ x 24″
Here is the second one, 20″ X 24,” that I did also on raw canvas wrapped around a foam panel and a wooden stretcher.
Here is the 3rd one, 18″ X 24″, on a raw canvas stapled around a foam panel and stretcher bars.
To conclude, I love the lightness of these paintings. I can scrape down the surface in the same way as I scraped the wax surface down on a wooden panel. I can frame them in floater frames. When I paint on raw canvas and foam panels I will make sure that the foam is archival and has a permanency that will last for many years. Also, one can use a thick cardboard panel and paint in the same way as with the foam. Many possibilities to experiment with.