The basis for painting is any physically existing material or surface on which paints are applied: metal, wood, fabric, paper, brick, stone, plastic, vellum paper (thin parchment, wax, tracing paper), parchment, plaster, glass. However, only a few of them represent the traditional foundations for oil painting; They are divided into two groups: elastic (flexible) substrates, which include canvas and paper, and rigid, combining wood, sheet fiberboard, fiberboard, canvas on cardboard (board) and metal.
The most popular and widely used base is canvas. However, the status of the canvas as a standard basis for painting is relatively young. Ancient artists preferred to work in encaustic on wooden foundations, and in the Middle Ages this practice gave impetus to the development and use of egg tempera on boards – the primary and most important form of easel painting of that time. In the fifteenth century, at the initial stages of evolution, oil painting existed as a way to refine or – the final stage of tempera technology: the main focus was still on small things with careful detailing. Such paintings by Flemish artists, for example, preferred to paint in oil on primed wooden boards.
At that time, the most popular material was wood – oak or birch in Northern Europe, poplar – in Italy. Metal – mainly copper (the second most popular material) – was used less frequently. Painting on the boards, as a rule, was intended for collectors or as fragments of the decor of religious architecture, so the paintings were small.
Currently, many artists work on elastic foundations. Nevertheless, painting on the boards has its followers, and this choice represents unique aesthetic possibilities.
Here is a brief description of the basics used most often in oil painting today.
Canvas is closely associated with the chemistry of oil paints. Linen linen is made from the fibers of the plant Linum usitatissimum – the very one whose seeds are used in the production of raw linseed oil. For the manufacture of the canvas, the plant is harvested whole (including the roots) during the period of the highest degree of maturation, then it is left to ripen for three weeks. Then a strong thread is spun from this material, from which the canvas is woven.
What makes linen linen attractive? This is its strength and mainly beauty. Compared to other fabrics, linen does not have a mechanically correct and even woven pattern, due to the features of weaving. Flax always comes out with a “live” texture through the applied layers of paint. This organic beauty is most clearly manifested when using linen of standard and rougher varieties of texture; however, the canvas, even finer thin – the so-called “portrait” quality, reveals an exquisite unevenness and roughness of the surface of the fabric.
It is important to remember that the oil painting of the early periods was carried out with thin layers of paints – in comparison with the more pasty texture characteristic of modern art. The paint was applied with glaze, so its entire layer remained relatively transparent. Consequently, the texture of linen canvas became one of the decisive factors determining the nature of the completed work. The “incorrectness” of the fabric pattern and the nodules and roughness found here and there filled the glaze with sparkling light.
The variety of textures of artistic linen is determined by the number of threads per inch. Medium-sized linen canvas contains approximately 79 threads per inch; a canvas of smooth texture – the so-called “portrait” quality – contains from 90 threads or more. Linen can be either single (SW) or double (DW) weave. A double weave is much stronger, heavier, denser and, of course, more expensive than a single weave. It is more acceptable for large paintings
Gamma canvas Cotton as a basis is a modern alternative to flax. It first began to be used for artistic purposes in the 30s. The twentieth century, and since then its popularity has increased many times, especially in the USA, where its main part is actually produced.
Unlike linen cotton canvas, it did not take such a prestigious position; moreover, it received negative reviews in the press. Some authors even found cotton canvas completely unsuitable as a basis. This view cannot be called completely fair, since cotton has certain advantages. It is a durable and inexpensive material. Like flax, it has the same cellulose molecule in its structure. Compared to linen, cotton is slightly thinner and much more even, which affects the texture of the fabric. Therefore, in comparison with linen canvas, cotton does not have an equally interesting surface.