Painting on Canvas instead of Wooden Panels


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.  IMG_3121 2

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.

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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.

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Painting 2 the background fused, finished and ready to add the lines.  IMG_3759

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.



Taking Realism to Abstraction

My studio sits beside a beautiful lake and the sunsets and sunrises on the lake are amazing.  Every day I feel blessed when I see the sky constantly changing, the reflections in the lake go from bright oranges to midnight blues, and the leaves in the fall pop to reds and oranges.  I can understand why artists in the Group of Seven were drawn to the landscapes around Algonquin Park.   I, on the other hand, have a love – hate relationship with painting landscapes.   I have tried painting realistically.  Six years ago I did a few paintings of water plants by the shores of the lake.  Below are examples.

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Shore Plants. acrylic, 30″ X 30″
Shore Plants
Shore Plants, 30″ X 30″, acrylic on canvas
Shore Plants, 24″ X 48″, acrylic on canvas
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Shore Plants, 30″ X 30″, acrylic on canvas

I had positive reviews but did not see my future as a realistic landscape painter.  I have always been drawn to the non-representational and have predominately painted in that style. Yet, every now and then, when I need a break from the Interlaced series, I try to paint realistic lake views.   And, every time the landscape is finished I disrupt the pretty realism by painting my woven structure over it.  I can’t leave that painting as a realisitc landscape.

Incubation Period

While staying in Florida, for the month of January (2017), I went to an art store to buy myself a few tubes of watercolour paint, paper, some sewing needles and yarn.  Utilizing the idea of barriers, since I was so against Trump’s idea of building a wall along the Mexican and USA border, I created these small watercolour paintings and used my needle and thread and wove a weaving on top of the landscape.  When I got home I put them away.

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Water colour, yarn on paper, 9″ X 12″
Watercolour on paper with yarn, 9″ X 12″

Experimental Days

Every month I take a few days off from the series that I am working on and shift my thoughts to experimenting on other ideas. On one of those days I decided to take a photograph from the edge of our lake and then, in the studio, paint those reflections on the lake with the horizon line and distant hills.   When it was finished I saw another pretty landscape which I just could not relate to. The image of my weaving materialized and I added a woven overlay on top of the blue water and fused it.  This time, by accident, I over  fused the lines so the wax melted and created lacy lines over the water.  It felt like I had added a warm woven blanket onto the surface and then it sank in some parts and raised to the surface in other areas.   I just loved the affect.  Then, I remembered the watercolour painting that I did of the barrier in Florida and began adding a fence on the horizon line.  As I was painting the fence it reminded me of a lines of trees so I shifted the fence to trees with spaces in between.   I included colours of reds and yellows peaking through those trees.     It became a tree fence blocking the views beyond the horizon line.

I was so excited with that landscape because it was still realistic yet it was also an abstraction – it had a twist when I fused the water and added the running tree fence.  Below is the first painting in the series.

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Standing at the Edge, encaustic on panel, 24″ X 24″

My intent of using barriers or coverings was still in that first painting and became the catalyst for the next series.  I continued to paint three more variations focusing on lake views from the water’s edge and included a running tree fence blocking the views.

At the Edge #2, Encaustic on panel, 24″ X 24″
At the Edge #3, encaustic on panel, 24″ X 24″
At the Edge #4, encaustic on panel, 24″ X 24″ 


Marsh Studies

Here is the next shoreline study that has possibilities. It still needs a bit more work on the reeds because I think there is too much wax which makes that area too thick and dense. Some more burnt sienna, yellow and green around the middle. I love the way the light comes through the dark incised lines but I need to bring in more of those white lines to make the top section less dense. I don’t know if this is finished yet. I may have to work on it some more and will share the final results.


As you can see below I scrapped away the top half of the painting and simplified the composition. I just did not like the thick application of those reeds. I felt that the previous painting had no life and it was too busy. I reworked the water and added water plants below the top reeds. I like the circle affect that I created. I think the water is too white and needs to be a lighter blue because the white suggests ice instead of water.

Marsh Study 3

Another marsh and shore line study. I think this idea has many possibilities so now I want to make a bigger 24” X 24” marshland painting and use this #2 painting as a starting point. I want to continue with creating a sense of distance and will also continue to add water lilies at the bottom of the next painting.

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After viewing this painting for a while there was something in the painting that kept bothering me. I saw the straight line of the back weeds and the front weeds being too straight so I worked on this study again. I broke the top line and made it move in a wavy line. I also broke up the bottom line as well. I think the final composition is much better.

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Getting Confident with Encaustic Medium – Shore Line Series

Now, that I feel somewhat confident with the medium, I have decided to begin my Shore Line Series. My goal is to create 10 encaustic artworks of our shoreline around the lake where I have my studio. I have tried different techniques over the past month and have concluded that the paint needs to be added to the surface similar to a pointillism technique. Through experimentation, overlapping small brushstrokes and a layering of different colored oil paint/wax are needed. Then over the waxed surface use an iron and blend very carefully. The problem with the iron – too much wax could be melted in areas and the edge of the iron can leave grooves that expose the back water colour paper layer. This can be used to my advantage as well if the bottom layer coming through the surface is exposed. I have to plan the layers of colors so that one can see the bottom layer and it is integrated into the foreground.

In the first 12 “ X 12” shoreline work I used my imagination and first created a water surface treatment with the layering of colored wax and then took may iron to incise the surface into a waving pattern to represent the water. Then, I took strips of fabric and waxed them down to the surface. The fabric represented the reeds. I added a bit of dark color to the edge of the reeds to suggestion a light source.

The following image is my first attempt at water.