I normally work on traditional gessoed (the rabbit skin glue, marble dust stuff, not the acrylic stuff sold as ‘gesso’) boards from RealGesso or oil primed Ampersand Hardbord or Ampersand Claybord sealed with thin imprimatura of ochre and M. Graham Walnut Alkyd Medium. However, when I work larger or wish for a change in surface, I love oil primed linen.
Here’s my method of mounting linen canvas onto panel:
- unprimed linen (I use a fine weave like #66J unprimed belgian linen from Utrecht)
- Ampersand Hardbord – less of a tendency to warp. It will warp with the moisture of pva size but easily corrected with weights.
- Golden GAC100 – to seal the hardbord
- Gamblin PVA Size – to adhere the linen to board and size or seal the linen
- pumice stone, gesso brush, a hard plastic squeegee
- alcohol to degrease hardbord
- a sharp blade or knife to trim the linen (I happened to have luck with a carpet cutter, oddly enough).
- primer of your choice – I like Gamblin’s Oil Ground and Michael Harding’s Foundation White
- Cut linen to size leaving 1 inch allowance for shrinkage. Iron out any creases.
- Degrease hardbord with alcohol front and backsides.
- Seal the hardbord by brushing front, back and sides with Golden GAC 100. Let dry.
- Glue the linen on the panel: Brush on Gamblin PVA size glue on hardbord and back side of linen. Lay linen glue side down. Squeegee the linen on the hardbord, and brush on glue on the top of the linen to saturate and to size the linen. Let dry.
- If the hardbord warps, weigh it flat with weights or books overnight.
- Burnish the linen with a pumice stone so it’s silky.
- Brush on another coat of PVA size. Let dry.
- Trim off excess linen with a blade.
- Burnish the linen, this time with an extra piece of loose linen. Do not use a pumice stone at this stage as that will compromise the sizing. (optional)
- Prime the linen. I mix in a little burnt sienna to get a salmon colored tinted ground. Apply Gamblin oil ground or Michael Harding Foundation White or primer of choice (I much prefer oil grounds to the acrylic gesso) with a palette knife and smooth down as you like. Alternatively, if you like the color of the raw linen, pva size alone is sufficient ground as it seals the linen.
Note: use common sense on the size of hardbord to use. Uncradled is fine for small panels but anything larger than 16×20 should be cradled. (That’s as large as I could get away with and I would only try it with Ampersand). Luckily, Ampersand offers cradled hardbords. You can also use Masters Baroque wood painting panels or ArtBoards. I’ve had good experiences with the quality of these products. I will stay away from mdf or masonite panels. If you’re flush, you can always use Dibond.