Month: February 2012



resist: 1325–75; ME resisten (v.) < L resistere to remain standing,a substance that prevents or inhibits some effect from taking place I really like a textured looking background, but I paint in very thin washes, which isn’t compatible with the thicker and more opaque layers that […]

Progress … WIPs

Progress … WIPs

progress a movement toward a goal going on; under way; being done; happening: to grow or develop, as in complexity, scope, or severity; advance Works in progress … “sight” 10″ x 10″ x 2.5″ “she’s a rainbow” 12″ x 12″ x 2″ 7″ x 7″ […]

Stretch … How to Make Your Own Artist’s Canvas

Stretch … How to Make Your Own Artist’s Canvas

to draw out or extend (oneself, a body, limbs, wings, etc.) to the full length or extent

to extend, force, or make serve beyond the normal or proper limits; strain: to stretch the imagination

“he taught us drawling, stretching, and fainting in coils” ~ lewis carrollSeveral years ago, we built our own house. I don’t mean we acted as a subcontractor and paid someone else to do the work, I mean we built it with a hammer and nails and saws … with our own hands.

Even so, I was ridiculously intimidated when it came to making a frame for canvas and I put off even trying until a couple years ago. Artist Jane Kenoyer has some excellent canvas building tutorial videos which I’ve posted here previously … and they were very helpful in convincing me to give it a go. I’m glad I did. It’s less expensive, especially for very large canvases, and I’m able to choose the ground rather than try to work around what was put there by a canvas manufacturer.

To start, you need wood for the canvas frame. These pieces are for a tiny 5″ x 5″ canvas, and are about one inch each way, but usually I use 1″ x 3″.

The canvas doesn’t rest on a wide piece of wood. Rather, it’s held up around the edges by just a thin strip of wood. To get that edge on any canvas frame, I bevel cut them with the table saw.

The corners are cut at 45 degree angles on a miter saw.

I nearly always use 1″ x 3″ pine, or 1″ x 6″ that has been ripped in half to make it 1″ x 3″. Sometimes I splurge for the clear stuff, but I’ve also found good solid, knot free wood in the less expensive types.

I work on one corner at a time and coat each mitered edge with wood glue. A corner vise holds them together at a right angle so they can be nailed with 1 1/2″ finish nails.

Larger canvases will require cross bracing where needed.

Once I have the frame built, I tear a piece of canvas that is just slightly larger than what I need to stretch across the front, around the sides, and over the back where it will be stapled. I make a small cut and then tear the canvas. It’s much easier and more accurate than trying to cut a straight line.

I buy my rolls of canvas online, and get 11.5 ounce raw canvas. “Medium weight” canvas commonly found in art stores is quite thin (7 oz, usually) and I’ve found isn’t nearly sturdy enough for a wider canvas frame. It’s also more expensive.

To stretch the canvas, start in the middle and staple opposite sides, pulling the canvas as tight as possible. Then go to the other two opposing sides and staple the middle. Work out from the middle, pulling tightly and alternating sides so everything is kept evenly taut. There’s a tool called, appropriately enough, canvas pliers, which is basically a very wide pair of pliers. I haven’t gotten around to getting one and use a regular pair of pliers when needed. It took making a few canvases to develop a feel for what worked best for me.

Once the sides have been stapled, the corners can be made.

Making corners is difficult to explain. It’s basically like a hospital corner.

Once everything is stapled down, the canvas can be primed with gesso or whatever is preferred. I use a few very thin layers of gesso thinned with water, which leaves the canvas quite porous and suitable only for acrylics and not oils (oils will degrade fabric, so a heavier coat of gesso is needed).

Regardless of size, all canvases are basically made the same way. Below is a nearly 4′ x 6′ canvas I made recently. There are cross braces because the span of the sides is long enough to bow without them, but the corners of the frame are made the same way. The canvas is stretched the same way as well.

A 4′ x 6′ canvas can cost as much as $350 or more. I put this one together for less than $35.

Now … if I could just decide what to put on it …



When the moon bloomsLike a flower in the night~ Mark Heard I’ve always been fascinated with moonflowers … they’re evening/night blooming flowers. Unfortunately, I’ve already killed my moonflower seedlings for this year. I let them get chilled. They have to be kept really warm. I’ll […]



begin Old English beginnan “to begin, attempt, undertake,” form of onginnan perhaps, “to open, open up” (cf. O.H.G. in-ginnan “to cut open, open up,” also “begin, undertake” to proceed to perform the first or earliest part of some action; commence; startto originate; be the originator […]

The Most Delicious Thing

The Most Delicious Thing

“For the last two and a half years, I’ve been able to declare, without hesitation and with only a modest sense of theater, that the most delicious thing I’ve eaten in a long time was a bowl of warm pig’s blood.” 

So begins Bill Buford’s tale for the New York Times Magazine of one of the tastiest meals and most aware moments of his life … a tale of his slaughtering of a living being so he might drink her blood.   The tale ends with an exhilarated Buford sheepishly sporting a blood moustache. 

The blood was of a pig, an animal more intelligent, and often more socially complex, than any nonhuman primate. Pigs can play video games and they can remember abstract ideas years after an event. It’s recognized by most animal behaviorists that pigs are, “as intelligent as a three year old child.“  

We all know, of course, that it would be wrong to kill a three-year-old child. Right? But here’s a thought. If a three-year-old child and a pig are equally aware, equally cognizant, equally alive … then is there really all that much difference between killing the child and killing the pig? Arguably, there’s a difference in their value to us. Under most circumstances, any human child is going to be more valuable than a pig would be to another human being. But to each of them, is there really any difference in their experience of dying? Of being killed? Would a pig experience the event of having a knife stuck in his throat in a significantly different way than would a human child of equal awareness? And if they would each experience the event in the same way, wouldn’t killing them be equally wrong? 

What disturbs so many of us when we hear of a young child being injured or killed is we imagine what must have happened to the child and what she must have felt while it happened. Someone like Caylee Anthony, the little girl in the Florida case that transfixed the nation for months, was just weeks away from her third birthday. Whatever the cause of her death, she would have been cognizant enough to know something horrible was happening, but not so cognizant as to understand why. That she didn’t understand why it was happening makes her last moments, whatever they were, perhaps even more horrible to contemplate. Certainly, we all understand she was capable of pain and fear and terror; given her nearly three-year-old level of cognition she was capable of suffering

” … the most delicious thing I’ve eaten in a long time was a bowl of warm blood pig’s blood. I had it on a cold day in February 2009, in a gravel-and-straw courtyard, on a farm, in the hills above the Rhone River, in France.”

Buford’s romanticized tale becomes a screaming nightmare if you reread it replacing the word pig with human child. Yet any three-year-old child, compared with any member of any species of pig, would possess roughly the same skill at playing video games, and have about the same memory for abstract events. They would each be fascinated by and able to use mirrors. They would also have similar central nervous systems and a similar ability to feel physical pain and emotional terror. In other words, in all the ways that matter to the one who is being killed, their experience would be the same. 

“Two friends slaughtered the pig that morning, following an old-fashioned approach. I had wanted to witness it, mainly to see how the deed was done but also to learn what the effect on me might be.” 

Mr. Buford was curious about what it looked and felt and smelled like to kill a living being, one who had the cognizance of a three-year-old child, and because we have no laws preventing such things, he was able to indulge that curiosity. Being the arbiter of life and death, especially over a being so similar to humans, must be a powerful feeling. Indeed, Ted Bundy had this to say about his victims: “You feel the last bit of breath leaving their body. You’re looking into their eyes. A person in that situation is God!”

Bill Buford continued: 

“It was strong — it took four of us to pin it down — and had an abundance of character and a withering self-awareness: it knew it was going to die … “

After killing three year old Breeann Rodriguez, Shawn Morgan stated to the police that it “felt like it took an hour for the girl to die.”

During the actual experience of being killed, there really isn’t all that much difference between one being who has the awareness of a three-year-old child and another being who has the awareness of a three-year-old child, even if one of them is a pig. So what does that say about their killers?

What does that say about us? I can’t argue with Mr. Buford when he says, “Every meat eater participates indirectly in an animal’s death, normally at a very far remove.”  Because he’s correct.

At any given moment, there are 65 million pigs in American factory farms. Each year, in the United States alone, we will cut the throats of more than 112 million pigs …  213 every minute; 112 million living beings who possess the same (or higher) level of cognition and awareness as Caylee Anthony, or Breeann Rodriquez, or any other three-year-old child. 

Of those 112 million beings capable of rudimentary video game playing, with bodies and minds so very similar to our own, many of them will arrive at the scald tank alive, conscious, and exquisitely aware of what’s happening to them. What they won’t understand is why it’s happening. And neither will I.