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I have a 4ft by 4ft canvas that I need to finish in 3-4months. My working space is not ideal and unfortunately I have no where else to work. I have to make do with this limited working area and I'm having a difficult time figuring out how to set up my canvas so that I can work on it. It'll be an acrylic (possibly with oil after the acrylic), personal piece for a client. No pouring or throw, he wants realism and lots of detail. I mention that because while there isn't a whole bunch of splashing or dripping that'll be happening, I'll need to use a decent amount of water to keep the acrylics from drying too quickly. (This is my situation; the vent is directly above where my canvas-the only space for it-is currently, it's been incredibly cold in the early morning/evening/at night and quite warm/humid most of the day which has the others in the house constantly turning the heater & air conditioning on and off. I can't leave the canvas out in the living space due to our cats, and there are no other areas in the house to put it. No garage.) Here is a picture of my canvas as I have is set up against the wall with brick of all things, to keep is steady. (Note: the blue tape is not even and I am very much aware of that). Any suggestions, recommendations, words of advice are more then just appreciated.

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Edit: so I guess it wasn't clear enough to understand. Or maybe I didn't say it right. The reason I mention the heating/AC/etc. is to give y'all an idea of the environment in which I need to secure the canvas. There's really nowhere else to put it, and I'm not sure if the heat (from the heating) or the AC (air conditioning) would disturb the method of securing the canvas to the wall. (I.e. no glue - not strong enough/heat would weaken it, although that's kind of an obvious example, it's the best, most simple, one I can think of at the moment.) I know it sounds ridiculous, I hope this helps in understanding and if it sounds rude, that is not my intention.

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  • Drilling or punching holes in the wall is not an option? Do you have a table (that's not too deep or wide) you can put it on so you can at least work at a comfortable height? Would you be comfortable taking it off the stretcher and pinning it to the wall? (Also note that letting something (even as light as those rulers) lean against the canvas will likely slightly warp the fabric :)
    – Joachim
    Feb 26 at 11:33
  • @Joachim fwiw there is a huge difference in touch when painting on a stretched canvas vs one tacked to the wall.
    – rebusB
    Feb 26 at 14:05
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    @Joachim I was thinking of doing something like that, to temporarily drill and secure the canvas to the wall. I have my bed (due to the size of the room I'm in, I turn it into my 'studio' during the day) which gives me about 3feet of space to lay it on and another tall but small table that's almost the same height. While I trust myself with handling my canvases, I'm not sure I'd be the best choice to take it off the stretcher and pin it to the wall. And I moved the rulers, they were only on it for a minute but thank you c: Feb 27 at 0:44
  • @rebusB I haven't had the opportunity to put together my own canvas, this one is a pre-stretched, pre-primed one I got from my local art store. Feb 27 at 0:47
  • I asked after drilling to suggest something like this, so you can just put the canvas against the wall at a preferred height. You'd still need a way to secure it at the top, but I think something along those lines is the best option given what little space you have.
    – Joachim
    Feb 27 at 6:19

4 Answers 4

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My thoughts on this:

Avoid air stream on the canvas. Looking at the photo, I would glue a piece of cardboard to one side of the AC air outlet to redirect the air flow away from the canvas. That avoids dust and other stuff like pet hair sticking to the wet paint.

Keeping the paint wet: You mentioned using lots of water to keep the paint wet on the canvas. I suggest using an acrylic retarder instead where you need to keep the paint workable for a long time. As the name implies, it retards the drying of acrylic paints. It does make the paints a little more transparent, especially when used in high quantities, but it keeps the consistency much more viscous than water.

DIY easel: Such a big canvas is very unwieldy and needs a sturdy fixture. I would probably look around for something like 2 kitchen chairs or low stand-alone shelf to prop it up. Those bricks come in handy to make sure the DIY easel doesn't skid on the floor. Cover the DIY easel with some plastic foil to protect it from paint. Something like a wooden slat or L-shaped metal strip tied or glued to the front edge of the DIY easel should be enough to secure the canvas.

Glueing it to the wall: You mentioned gluing the canvas to the wall, but I don't think it's the best idea. The only glue-based fastener I would consider is a removable adhesive strip like Tesa power strips (not affiliated; this is meant as an example, there are other brands of similar products). They promise to be removable without any residue, but in reality I've seen them leave stains behind or even pull paint from the wall. Depending on how heavy the canvas is, you need to apply a lot of adhesive to keep it on the wall. There's still a risk that the adhesive fails and the canvas falls off, though.

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  • I don't see the OP mention glueing the canvas anywhere. That sounds like a bad idea in any case.
    – Joachim
    Feb 27 at 13:05
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    @Joachim It's somewhat hidden in the text: "The reason I mention the heating/AC/etc., is to give y'all an idea of the environment in which I need to secure the canvas. [...] I'm not sure if the heat (from the heating) or the AC (air conditioning) would disturb the method of securing the canvas to the wall (i.e. no glue - not strong enough/heat would weaken it. Although that's kind of an obvious example, it's the best, most simple one I can think of at the moment)"
    – Elmy
    Feb 27 at 15:04
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Alternately if you can puncture the wall, as Joachim asked in the comments, two large nails (if the drywall can handle it) or lag bolts* (made for drywall if it cannot) would do the trick. They would have to protrude enough to rest the upper stretcher bar on but not so much that they extend beyond the bars into the back of the canvas.

If the canvas is too heavy for two than use more, they just have to be in a straight line. Place them at the height you want the top of the canvas to rest, minus the width of the stretcher bars.

*Bolts that either have a threaded collar that is tapped into a hole in the drywall or a butterfly clamp that expands on the backside of the wall to secure them. They spread the load out some so they do not tear out or otherwise move around in the soft drywall material.

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Not sure what your budget is but I would suggest getting a basic wooden tripod aka A-frame easel. They are the most affordable and take up the least space yet are very versatile. Look for one that is fairly sturdy, has a clamp at the top, and adjustable platform height.

It is likely you can pick up a new one from your local art supply store for under $200.00 (with some assembly required), plus you can test it out at the store. Looking online there is a big price range for what appears to be the same models with some very overpriced ($1300 on AliBaba, what?!) so watch out for that. Talking about something like this:

(A-frame easel, sourced from https://www.jacksonsart.com/blog/2017/11/09/ultimate-easel-guide/)

If purchasing one is not possible the basic design is simple enough to make yourself (if you forfeit the adjustability factor). In that case you could even lose the back leg and just lean it against the wall. Simply make a tall triangle of 2x4"s with the bottom horizontal attached at the height you want to work. You may want to use lighter pieces of wood but those are common, so...

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  • I have one of those but I found it didn't hold the canvas very well and when working the black paint onto it, the side I wasn't working on would start to edge off of it. Luckily, it didn't fall off. Feb 27 at 0:38
  • @LenGuillen Have you thought about extending the horizontal bar the canvas rests on? I'm pretty sure you could screw some wood slats to the bottom of it and pad the top of the extensions out to come up to the same height as the original. Or screw a long slat to the top of that horizontal bar and add a small squared rod to the front edge to keep the canvas from falling off. If you're lucky that's enough to stabilize your canvas.
    – Elmy
    Feb 27 at 15:39
  • There is a lot of range in terms of quality with these. Some are quite lightweight and will not be stable with larger canvases. The clamp at the top is important with the problem you are talking about. An H-style easel would fix that too but they are bigger and heavier (and more expensive).
    – rebusB
    Feb 28 at 16:29
  • The black paint is the ground, yes? So an even coating across the canvas... there is no need for an easel at that stage. It is for the more finessed work of painting in the "realism and lots of detail."
    – rebusB
    Feb 28 at 16:40
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I, too, was thinking of the Tesa strips; they also make a Velcro-type strip that can hold up to I believe 100 lbs.
I truly believe if you go to Michaels or Lowe's and tell them what you are trying to do, they will be more than happy to help.
Best of luck!!

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