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Canvas is a sail

 

I posted a Youtube video yesterday announcing my big painting trip to Mongolia. I've sworn to do the biggest paintings I can, which presents logistical problems. There aren't many choices when it comes to a large, portable painting surface durable enough to haul on the back of a camel through wind, rain, and snow. Canvas is the obvious choice. It doesn't tear easily, but you can cut it with a knife or scissors. It rolls up nicely around a cardboard tube. You can stretch it over a wooden frame, as painters have for centuries, thus creating a rigid stable surface to draw and paint upon. You can use pushpins to stretch the canvas, attaching them all around the outer edge of the frame. That way, you can remove them when the painting dries, roll up the finished work, and reuse the frame. All good. But when you've stretched your canvas on this wooden frame and placed your stable, paintable surface outside on an easel, you will, of course, discover another centuries-old use for canvas. It makes a great sail. 

I've already learned this. I need to prevent my painting from sailing over my head and terrifying the camels, who might then leap up, tumbling their packs to the ground and charge away into the featureless steppes of Mongolia, leaving us stranded just before an unexpected snowstorm hurtles over the nearby ridge. 

I learned to tie my canvas down in Nepal, many years ago, working in Mustang, a remote Tibetan cultural area where each afternoon, without fail, roaring, gale force winds tear up the canyons. So now, I bring tent stakes and extra line to anchor the painting so that it remains stable enough to work on. Still, the occasional angry gust can turn a delicate pinpoint of color into a smeary gestural smudge, as if you are alternately channeling Canaletto and Willem DeKooning.

Check out the video here



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