The Painting of "Calypso 2"

The Painting of "Calypso 2"

This post is a continuation from last week showing the painting of the second painting in the "Calypso" series. This piece is different in that it is painted on raw canvas - that is canvas with no gesso primer added to the surface. Painting on raw canvas is much 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. 

In this painting 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.

If you want a really fun challenge, get some raw canvas on a stretcher and give it a go!

If you'd like to start 2018 by learning to paint with spontaneity and freshness, check out my list of upcoming workshops: (You can view a list of 2018 workshops HERE)

  • January 18-20, 2018 Forstall Art Supply, Birmingham, AL. To register contact Zack Barnes by email: or phone: 205-870-0480.
  • February 1-3, 2018, David M. Kessler Fine Art Studio, Winston-Salem, NC. To register contact David:
  • February 21-23, 2018, Fort Smith Regional Art Museum, Ft. Smith, AR. To register contact Casey Seamons:

As always, thanks so much for your support! 


P.S. If you cannot attend a live event, or prefer to learn online in the comfort of your home or studio, Abstract Painting Academy is my online workshop:

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Abstract Painting Academy is the next best thing to a live workshop. You can learn more about the program by Clicking HERE. 

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