Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Side Bar: Clare's Wall-Sized Canvas Works!

This afternoon, Downstairs Clare and I completed installation and implementation of his ingenious wall-sized canvas support system. The pine frame with its array of dowel pegs were fastened to the concrete wall securely on a recent day. And on another, small spring clips were clover-hitched onto the pegs, allowing a versatile method of stretching painting substrates into the giant frame. All the way along, at several key steps, Clare and both had doubts about it working, but today as we tested it by stringing up a length of primed canvas, I actually saw glee burst outta Clare (which is about as rare a sighting as anything really super rare that you never ever see.) He said, smiling, "It works!"

I asked him how he came to dream this idea up and he said that while he was watching the movie Girl with a Pearl Earring, he saw in one shot an easel in the background that had the canvas stitched onto an open frame on the easel. Brilliant of him to adapt that quick observation to this scale I think.

Tomorrow, after the canvas has stretched itself out further, we can tighten up the tension strings and Clare can start throwing gesso (He knows what that means) ok, translation disclosure, because you are all artists and will understand; It's a phrase Clare advised to a painter that was having trouble loosening up, being too fussy and "shut down". The phrase stands for not overthinking and not be blocked by technique or method, instead painting for the Joy and as Clare said to the student; "Just throw the damn gesso!"


  1. I love seeing the process unfold!! Go Gesso and share the next stage too!! Clever idea!!

  2. I love the studio shots in "Pearl Earring" (Scarlet Johannsen ain't bad either :)

    This looks fantastic, I may have to try it out someday when I have the space!

  3. Origin of the word Gesso:

    Interviewer: "So, do you consider yourself a proto existential abstract individualist working in a materialistic void and commenting on the condition of a mankind no longer in touch with its spiritual base?"

    Artist: "uh.... sure. Gesso."

  4. Anonymous10:41 AM

    thanx Clare's fairy godmother for your part
    in bringing out Clare's glee. He is such a joy and i love it when his joy escapes

  5. Thanks Corey, I absolutely will post Clare's finished painting, with or without his permission, as I am so the boss of him.

    Space we both have! Clare and I are so lucky. We each have a whole floor in a friend's old building in which to play for as long as our good fortune can last! We are loving every minute of it, there's some pinching involved.

    Mike, did you make that up?! That is frickin' hilarious!

    I know you have seen the inner joy in Clare for 30+ years, Jeane, and I see him he laugh hardily often and easily, and his wacky humor is always there. I just hadn't really ever seen him that unreservedly silly before. I loved it! It was nice to see him truly happy and excited to paint.

  6. I would love to see the painting when it's done,
    heck I would love to see progressive shots of it.

    That is a clever way to stretch jumbo canvases,
    my question is what does Clare do when the
    painting is done or is it a permanent installation?

  7. Thanks for the interest, Mark! Great idea, I will definitely post progressive shots. Clare's technique is fascinating to watch. Lots of layers!

    And a great question, the beauty of Clare's contraption is that it can accommodate nearly any jumbo size canvas and then be unhooked to be, I dunno. He'll cross that bridge I guess. If it were me, and I told him so, I'd paint on giant canvas drop cloths, 9' x 12' jobs, primed or not, maybe with unusual primers like black gesso, and then install the finished paintings directly to display walls with hardware of some kind. I like the unconventional in art, a just do what you need to attitude works for me. But Clare knows the real Fine Art rules.

    The reason he didn't just tack the canvases to his wall with hardware or heavy duty staples, etc. to paint them (I asked) is because after a few canvases, the wall would be to hole-y to keep doing more. This way he can do as many as he likes.

  8. Thanks for that, its a cool way to do it, seem like it could work with any size canvas that is smaller than the wall mounted frame.

    I really like your new avatar - self portrait?

  9. I kinda sorta made it up... well, the specifics anyway. I read that somewhere, but I couldn't remember the setup so I just winged it.

    Hey, about framing a canvass that's already painted, I once saw a guy at a show with a stack of unstretched - but painted - canvasses. He was using a staple gun to mount them one by one into frames for the show. I think he painted them unstretched... not sure how well that would work. But he wasn't stretching them much as he framed them either. I don't think it's recommended fine art practice.

  10. You got it, Mark, that's the idea, canvases as big as will fit in that huge wooden frame.

    Thanks, that avatar is a computer generated portrait of me from a very cool site I came across last year. Face Transformer from the The Perception Lab at the University of St Andrews in the UK. Using the site was kind of life changing actually. You upload a photo of yourself, or someone else, and the genius software aligns key features to racial or artist-style models then melds the two together. I tried them all and found it shattering to view me, as it registers in my phyche, looking back at me as a black woman, Asian woman, East Indian woman, and even a male! It rocked me. It made what I identify with as myself meaningless in a cool way. They effect was so trompe l'oi it was consciousness raising. I was tempted to send the image of me as a male to my father telling him that a long lost brother had turned up! I tried tonight to get back into the transformer area of the site but I couldn't see the interface, maybe they've changed software since I last visited. The avatar was the Modigliani artist transformation and it doesn't look like me directly but does somehow remind me of something about how I look.

  11. Thanks Mike, Yeah, I'm not sure what Clare will come up with for the unstretched finished canvases. I mean, if he wanted them to be on stretcher bars he would have made them for it in the first place, eh? (He makes most of his own, or at least CAN do.) I dunno. It'll be fun anyway.


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