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MITRA Forum Question Details

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  • Using and Priming Non-Artist Polyester CanvasApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2016-12-13 19:44:14 ... Most recent comment 2016-12-13 21:14:00
    Flexible Supports Grounds / Priming
    I'd like to try painting on polyester canvas. Unfortunately, it's difficult to find artist polyester canvas where I live; equally difficult is getting untreated, "loomstate" polyester fabric. Easy to find, though, is polyester canvas for inkjet printing, and plain polyester canvas from the fabric store. My question is, are either of those an acceptable substitute, and safe to prime with acrylic gesso? I'm concerned that washing the canvas wouldn't properly remove the coatings it would have, causing adhesion problems for the gesso. Perhaps it would be be wiser to stick with cotton and polycotton canvases, made for artists, until a source for artist polyester canvas becomes available? Thank you.

Answers and Comments

  • EditDeleteModerator AnswerTwo things first. What is the attraction to polyester as a substrate for you and what type of paint are you planning to use on the polyester? I generally worry about the the overly flexible of polyester for any paint media other than acrylic dispersion paints. Let is know that and in the meantime I will ask some of the other moderators their opinions.
    Baade, Brian
    2016-12-13 21:23:01
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentSorry Brian, I should have mentioned that I'd be painting with oils, and that the polyester would be glued to ACM panel. (I'd like to be able to prime the ACM panel directly, but so far I've had no luck finding an effective bonding primer for it.) I remember that polyester-canvas-on-dibond was recommended as a very durable support by Michael Skalka of the National Gallery on an online forum. Although I may have wrongly assumed that he was including oils in the discussion...In any case, the hope is that polyester is as durable and resistant to acids as advertised. The canvas would be primed smooth, so the rather mechanical weave isn't a concern. What is a concern is how the material is perceived by clients; unlike linen, there's not a lot of romance attached to polyester. Thanks again for your help.
    2016-12-14 00:02:39
  • EditDeleteModerator AnswerYour additional info adds a lot to the discussion, especially your intention of adhering the polyester to the rigid support. I have far fewer misgivings about everything knowing this. Michael Skalka is actually one of our moderators and I will see if he has anything to add. I have also sent out an email to a couple of other authorities as well so please check back for additional information.
    Baade, Brian
    2016-12-14 00:50:30
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentThanks so much Brian; any advice would be appreciated. Trying to choose a polyester, or even something like hemp - another common fabric difficult to find as an artist canvas - from sources outside the art store can leave one feeling quite lost and unsure about the quality of the product.
    2016-12-14 02:09:02
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentIf artist's poly canvas isn't easily available, I think matte finish polyester fabric for inkjet printing would be a better choice than something from the fabric store. The former is intended to accept water-based ink, while the latter may have coatings and finishings that could repel sizing and primer, as well as unstable optical brighteners. I would avoid glossy, coated cloth for exterior banners. Where artist's polyester canvas is concerned, especially when stretched as a flexible support, we recommend using an acrylic-based sizing to impart stiffness, reduce strike-through of the primer and to enhance adhesion with the acrylic ground. Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2016-12-14 10:14:29
  • EditDeleteModerator AnswerI understand your frustration about availability of suitable fabric from locally. It is important to be wary of fabrics from common fabric stores as Matthew Kinsey, pointed out. The sizes that are used in these fabrics to resist the effects of water and reduce wrinkling are often very different than those that are appropriate for sizing a traditional painting. Is this a matter of availability or economy? If the former, where do you live? Perhaps there is a source for fabrics specifically offered for artists closer than you think.
    Baade, Brian
    2016-12-14 10:53:19
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentThanks Matthew and Brian. Perhaps it's safer to avoid both the printing store and the fabric store altogether; it sounds like a risk I wouldn't feel comfortable in passing on to clients. I've seen several websites where artists have recommended using inkjet- or fabric-store polyester, for reasons of both availability and economy. In this part of the world - New Zealand - good canvas can be especially expensive, I assume due to shipping. I know a few Australian artists who have a similar complaint. In any case, I think you're right, Brian : the solution is probably a matter of resourceful shopping, or perhaps just clever budgeting, rather than using less-reliable alternatives out of convenience. Thanks again - I feel I've been steered away from making some unwise materials choices.
    2016-12-14 17:57:30
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentThe discussion on use of polyester woven fabric as a substrate is now decades old. The late Ross Merrill, former chief of conservation at the National Gallery and Marion Mecklenburg from the Smithsonian agreed that polyester fabric on ACM was likely to be the best, most long-lasting substrate to ever come together in one system. The level of confidence was so strong in the combination that Marion's brother who runs a materials fabrication company started offering the first ACM, polyester laminated panel to customers long before ACM ever became as popular as it is today. A product called Polyflax is the closest thing that is sold in the artists' material world, but it is a poly-cotton blend. The industrial sources of polyester canvas are from the polyester sailcloth industry and from the commercial awning industry. Ross and Marion started experimenting with polyester canvas that they found from only one company, Sunbrella (sorry to cite a commercial company, but its unique properties make it a benchmark for the type of fabric that can be adequately primed because when originally researched, it was a poly that is NOT fused so that the numerous ends of fibers sticking out from the weave become useful in clinging to the priming coating. However, the same type of fabric may be sold in the commercial sailcloth industry at a reasonable price. Michael Skalka, ASTM D01.57
    2016-12-16 14:17:10
  • EditDeleteModerator AnswerThanks Michael. Great response.
    Baade, Brian
    2016-12-16 15:25:40
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentThank you very much Michael. I had no idea Poly-on-ACM came so strongly recommended. I wonder, should it matter if the Sunbrella is the marine-grade or the upholstery kind? It seems Sunbrella's awning fabrics aren't treated as heavily with waterproofing etc. ( Confusingly, they have a line of upholstery fabric called Sailcloth! ) Also - sorry to refer an earlier question - but would putting the fabric through several washes, with perhaps some scrubbing, be enough to remove the coatings? I'll email the Sunbrella company: hopefully they might be able to offer advice on removing any coatings, and also information on whether the poly fabric is still " not fused ". Fingers crossed for a reply. Thanks again, Mr Skalka. I admit, I'll be quite disappointed if I can't get this all to work. :)
    2016-12-16 20:30:39
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentJust a quick follow-up for anyone interested in using Sunbrella fabric. This is from a post by Ross Merrill about how he prepared it for his own painting : "The present coating can be removed with hot soapy water and a stiff scrub brush and rinsed with clear water. I have had no problems in using either an acrylic gesso ground or an alkyd/oil ground. Alkyd ground can be used directly on the Sunbrella without a isolating size since the alkyd will not rot the synthetic canvas. The fuzzy texture of the fabric aids the mechanical bond between the ground and fabric."
    2016-12-21 18:06:40
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentI've been using the polyester canvas from Utrecht (now the same one is offered by Dick Blick) for several years now and it is a dream. I've been adhering it to cradled wood panels using acrylic gel and then priming with acrylic dispersion ground and painting with oils. I'm Canadian so ordering from the US is a bit of a pain with customs etc (I actually ship it to an address in the States and drive over the border to pick it up) but worth it. It is cheaper than linen, thicker, has a more even surface and stays tight (as I mentioned I adhere it to panel now, but in the past I've stretched it on regular stretcher bars and the polyester canvas is still as tight today as when I stretched it about 5 years ago). If you are concerned about longevity I think paying the shipping to New Zealand would be worth it.
    2017-01-20 16:46:51

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