Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Canvas book

Last month I made a canvas book after seeing Jane LaFazio's segment on Quiting Arts TV. Jane used artist canvas as a base for a mixed media collage. I have not worked much on canvas and thought it would be a lot of fun to try using it as a base for a book.

I bought a yard of canvas at the art store and tore it into two 12" x 24" strips and two 6" x 16" strips and painted a coat of Gesso on each side of the canvas. Gesso creates a surface to paint on, so all your paint doesn't soak into the canvas.

Next I put color on each side of the canvas, so I would not be working on blank pages. A blank white page can be so intimidating. I also collaged some paper images onto the pages with gel medium and stitched a couple pieces of painted canvas to the pages.

Then I stacked the pages together and sewed them together on the sewing machine. I found that my Janome was not happy sewing through the layers of canvas, but the Bernina plowed right through four layers of painted canvas with no problem.

This book was not meant to have a theme, just be a place to try new things, new techniques and randomly add things, a continuous work in progress.
This page has a paper bird from wrapping paper in the upper corner and a painted bird in the bottom corner, painted with textile paints. The patterns and text were printed with thermofax. I had never printed with thermofax screens before. The images printed a little more distressed on the bumpy surface of the canvas. But I love the layer of texture. I can see why so many people love working with thermofax screens.
The photos of the women, here, on the cover and the back of the book are from acetate transfers using matte medium that Lesley Riley gave me. The one on this page was transferred onto a piece of buckram.

The cicada drawn on the red fabric and the patterns drawn on the leaf were made using a ruling pen. This was a great tip from Melanie Testa, I had forgotten all about ruling pens. I used to use them all the time years ago for inking things. I have several of them that have sat unused in a box for the last 20 years. I even have my dad's ruling pen and drafting tools that he used in his days as an engineer for the Navy. I am thrilled to rediscover the ruling pen, it is a great tool for drawing fine lines with paint or thickened dye.
In Jane's QATV segment she also used stencils to add more visual texture to her collages. When I was at Blick I saw a set for $2.99 how could I resist? I numbered my pages with them using the number as a design element on each page.
I drew the bee on the page with a permanent brown pen and painted it using transparent glazes of textile paint.
This center page has a thermofax print on a piece of wool felt and a scrap from the fabric I made to create the apron I posted about a couple weeks ago.
On page 12 I sewed a machine felted fabric collage.
On my last page I sewed a pocket so that I could keep things I want to add to the book in the future.

This book is still far from finished, I am planning to keep adding to it indefinitely.

It has been a fun experiment, canvas takes paint so differently from fabric. You can push paint around on its surface and pick it up again with a cloth making interesting textures in ways that you can't on cotton fabric. I also like the body the canvas has for book pages, flexible, yet sturdy. I can see a lot of ways one could explore using canvas for books.


  1. Ack -- ruling pens! Just the mention transports me back to Otis and black and white guache studies of typefaces and pattern!
    Now, in your context, they seem rather appealing again. Hmmmm, I wonder where mine is?

  2. A ruling pen, indeed! Mine was used for one school project and henceforth banished for lo these many years. Never thought about using it to draw with... an excellent notion. Love the bee.

  3. Judy, this looks fabulous! You really took it and ran with it and made a gorgeous book. beautiful!

  4. Love all the things you are trying out in the canvas book. Sending my students to your site so they can see too. We are currently making a metal (rebar) framed out canvas/felt journal Will post on my blog when done
    Debra Price Agrums

  5. clever as ever...i am trying to torture my so into going to festival in chicago but i am not sure on that one. i would love to meet you and take one of you make and take classes. oh well....

  6. Anonymous9:50 AM

    Hi Judy,
    I am currently starting a project for a local show on the prairie and I decided to do a canvas book (the kind made with a sheet and folded so that the page backs will be inside as seen in Quilting Arts ? on the issue) and I am applying art quilts to this. I was wondering if I should gesso before painting the canvas which will be background. I found the way you described being able to push the paint and pick it up intriguing. Thanks for sharing! Diane
    p.s. I love the painted batting and the paper that you incorporate into you art. Your art is beautiful to look at.

  7. Thanks diane, that sounds great, I think it really depends on the look you want though. I like the look and feel of plain canvas as well as painted. Now of course dyeing canvas is running through my mind, I think I will have to try that too.

    The gesso will make your pages stiffer, but it makes a nice surface for the paint. If you do not lay down gesso, the canvas absorbs the paint and it may bleed through to the other side and the paint may not lay down as evenly.

  8. love the book!! looking forward to its further incarnations...

  9. looks like you had fun, and then more fun!

    Thanks for telling us about the Pen, my dad had several and I never knew what they were for.

  10. I'm so glad that I popped onto your blog! I think your book is fabulous! I love all the different elements you've used to give your pages interest and texture. I have a roll of canvas left over from my floorcloth painting days. Maybe I should dig it out!

  11. Love your book! I've been working on a mixed media book too! I love the way you can move paint around on the gesso. I mixed fluid acrylics, pitt brush pens and stabilo pencil on one painting that I did. It works out pretty good.

  12. It often make me happy just to look at your work...

  13. How AWESOME this is! What a wonderful gift this could be for a toddler! My mind is racing with ideas of incorporating toys, pockets and texture! Thanks for sharing!


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