Monday, June 8, 2009

Painting for the Day: "Off Duty", and finishing the backs of stretched canvases

Thanks for all your nice comments this weekend!
"Off Duty" - oil - 8"x10"

Inspired by the recent
Different Strokes week 32-34 challenge of Madison Avenue, NYC, I decided to try another taxi painting. I don't know much about cars, but found the colors in this scene irresistible.


Finishing the back of your stretched canvas

Because I work on wrap-stretched canvas, I paint the sides as I go to alleviate the necessity of framing. I also back my paintings in a manner that I've had a few comments on, so I thought I'd share that today. I'd be interested in hearing what your method is for finishing off the back of your paintings.

My personal choice is to back my canvases with Tyvek, which is a fiberglass paper that doesn't tear. Some art supply stores will sell it by the yard; I buy a 50 yard roll from a local sign supply which gets me through a couple years. White or brown kraft paper is still standard for professional framing shops and is a good choice (less expensive, too).

To streamline this task, I keep a template sized for each standard canvas that I commonly use(A), in the size of the wood inset on the back of the canvas. I cut these out of mat board scraps and label them. (TIP: make friends with a frame shop. Often they have a large supply of mat board scraps that they are happy to give to you free or sell at a low cost.)

When cutting the Tyvek or paper, lay the template on top, and then lay a metal ruler over the edge; this will keep you from slicing into the template.

(B) Line the perimeter of the backing paper with adhesive transfer tape (3M's product is 924 ATG; Jerry's Artarama carries a store brand for a much better price). Strip the backing off the adhesive, lay the backing paper over the wood on the canvas, adjust and press into place (D).

Using a scrap of mat board that has marks for placing screws for every size of canvas I use (which is faster than a ruler or measuring tape), I attach all small D-rings and plastic coated picture wire.

I finish with a label on the the back that lists my web address.

Why back the painting at all? Many years I found out the hard way that stretched canvases stored, or even hanging on a wall over a length of time can end up collecting a lot of stuff in the back... dust, spiders, etc. Much of this can be removed using clear packing tape, but sometimes chunky detritus can work its way down to the front edge of your painting and make a series of lumps... pretty unsightly! Backing a canvas can gives it a nice clean, professional look. It sends a signal that you value your work.

I also store paintings custom size plastic bags that I make... more on that in the next post or so.

So what's your method? I'm always look for new and improved ways of doing things. Would love to hear your ideas.



  1. The colors is Off Duty are amazing R! I just love this piece!
    This is great info about the backing on canvases. I've never done this but now I'm thinking that I should!

  2. Tyvek sounds like a good idea for backing framed watercolors too. I have always felt that using kraft paper backings was incompatible with the acid-free and archival products I use in my watercolors and framing.

  3. This just the info I needed!!! Please don't laugh too hard when I ask what you call those things that are on the D-rings and how is it attached on the frame? [or mat?] I was going to deliver a painting tomorrow but I think it would be nice to have it set up like this and not plain like I was planning.

  4. Fantastic piece - very vibrant, and great backing advice! I gave you a little mention in my post today - hope you're more prepared for this weekend than I am - yikes!

  5. Thanks for your tips on backing canvases I have never done that either but it makes sense now that I think about it.
    The taxi painting is great and I love that blue you use, is it ceruleun?

  6. Great painting. Great balance. Love it.
    Reminds me of Ben McLaughlin only brighter.

  7. Great painting. Great balance. Love it.
    Reminds me of Ben McLaughlin only brighter.

  8. Beautiful painting, great colors,feels like summer.The trees are amazing.
    Great info regarding the backing on the canvases.

  9. Thanks, Manon! The colors almost seem even brighter onscreen. Once I started backing my artwork, I wondered why I hadn't done it before.

    Hi Chris, you may be on to something... I googled 'Tyvek PH' and learned that all Tyvek products have a neutral Ph of 7... there is an also an archival Tyvek with some extra qualities; and it also comes in a black color.

    Hi Sheila, So glad to be there when you needed me! I'll send you an email.

    Jane, thanks! I'm feeling reasonably prepared... except perhaps for rain. Thanks for the mention!

    You're welcome Diana; it's a small thing to do but well worth it, I think. The blue is a mix of Gamblin's ultramarine blue and Cobalt Teal... one of my favorites!

    Steve, thanks for introducing me to Ben McLaughlin... I had not hear do him. Great stuff!

    Thanks Irit, I'm glad you liked the painting. Hope the info on backing is helpful, too.

  10. You did it again..I don't know when I'll be able to paint like you aRt...:( The shadows of trees are wonderful...A magnificent piece of art! :)

  11. Just been going through some of the older posts in your blog: you are a fountain of knowledge. Thank yu for this last post, it's given me some ideas. r.

  12. A beautiful painting R. Good advice on backing paintings too.

    Take care,


  13. Love this post...the painting and backing info. Thank you!

  14. Hi, R - Love the scrumptious colors in Off Duty. Great tip about tyvek--it never occurred to me that they sold it plain. And in neutral ph! You are a wealth of info as always. I've just used the brown or black paper backing.

  15. Wow! Those colors are irresistible. I love the cross-compliments. Thanks for the tips on backing the canvas too.

  16. Ho,
    Just when I thought you had the still-life birds eye view locked up, or flys eye since you must be indoors, you did an about face, and put your own spin on it. Fun painting !
    About backing paintings, where I live and have lived, 90% humidity could be a problem. Can Tyvek breathe?

  17. Thanks Megha, and paint like yourself! That's the best way to be.

    Rahina, thanks, I'm glad you've found some helpful information. I am always happy to share what little I know.

    Thanks, Barbara and Beth!

    Liz and Cagg, I'm learning more about Tyvek today than I ever planned. Yes, it is breathable, and recyclable. I'll post a follow-up on this versatile product soon.

  18. I find this painting irresistible!

    Thanks for the info too, you are always so helpful!!

  19. No, you DON'T want to hear my method...because I have no method. :O Shame, shame, shame on me! Now I feel really inferior. :O But thanks for your advice, I'll have to try all that sometime... also, thanks for the magic wand + inverse + levels adjust to make my mats look white, it's awesome. Cheers....

  20. I just love the painting - the colors are so vibrant, so happy - and you did a great job on the car. wow. My cars always look like someone's auto project... Thanks for the tips on backing paintings. I will start to do this. It makes sense. R., when you paint the sides, do you continue the painting, or paint them a solid color?

  21. Hi Dana, Thanks and you're welcome!

    Hi Jala, (Inferior...? YOU? ¡Me estás tomando el pelo!) Happy to hear the magic wand worked out for you.

    Thanks, Carrie. To answer your question, it depends on the painting. Usually I wrap the painting around the side, but I might simplify it a bit. If I use a solid color it's a color from the painting.


Thank you for your kind comments! They always make my day.