Getting Started: Stretcher Frames

I’m going to take a couple of posts to cover the first few weeks of this semester’s Intro to Painting course to try and bring the blog up-to-date with the current project we are working on. Ironically, the first three class periods we never even touched a paint brush. Instead we built stretcher frames for canvases.

This was actually a pretty fun process. There is a certain satisfaction with putting together your own frame and canvas. It took a little longer with 20+ people having to go through the process than if anyone of us were doing it alone, but here is a rough breakdown of how things went:

The first day we went down to the woodshop with our lumber, measured, and made all the cuts.

Then the second day we nailed and glued the pieces together. I setup an 18” x 24” frame with reinforced corners.

Finally, we learned how to stretch and staple a sheet of canvas onto the frame. Then later we applied gesso and sanded the canvas.

I found this to be an excellent way to start an introductory class. It’s valuable both in getting a sense of the effort and process of these pre-production steps as well as providing at least a vague historical perspective. However, I do wonder about the effectiveness of this for working artists, both in terms of time and money. While I haven’t checked prices, I would think that catching sales at Michael’s or other art stores would be an easier and potentially cheaper way to obtain a supply of canvases.

What do you think? Do any of you working artists go through the process of building your own stretcher frames and stretching your own canvases? Leave a comment and let me know.