Painting on Raw Canvas is Like Painting With Watercolor

I began my painting career as a watercolor painter more than two decades ago. I loved it because of the way the water acts as a medium to let the paint flow onto, and be absorbed by, the paper. I eventually tired of the limited size of available paper and the need for framing and made the jump to painting in acrylics on canvas - thus retaining a water based medium, but on a larger substrate.

The major difference of course is that canvas is typically covered with a primer called gesso. The gesso seals the canvas and allows the paint to sit on top of it without absorbing into the canvas. I recently discovered that painting on raw canvas - canvas without gesso on the surface - can be much like watercolor painting. Without gesso, canvas is just cotton or linen fabric that is usually between 7 and 12 ounces in weight and is very porous. 

I decided to buy some raw canvas to see what effects I could achieve. The painting above, "Calypso 2" is painted on raw canvas. You can see the soft color transitions and watery look and feel. To create these effects you have to use LOTS of water. I spray the canvas with water before painting, dip my brushes into water and continually spray the canvas during the painting process to get the paint to flow over the fairly rough fabric surface. My reward, much like watercolor painting, is this soft flow of color. It is a fairly difficult technique and I am just beginning to experiment with it, but I like the possibilities that I see thus far. I also like the contrast that you can obtain between paint applied thinly with lots of water and thick, creamy paint applied with little to no water. This contrast is particularly effective to highlight the center of interest as I have done in the painting above.

I will keep using this technique and experimenting with it to see where it leads and may do additional posts to describe the journey. You can Click Here to view a video of me painting the piece shown above.