ART by Tom Leedy                                                                           ellipsis THMB

Stretcher Bars

  Stretcher Bar: The frame (usually wooden) on which canvas is stretched before priming and painting.

Some painters make their own stretcher bars, some have them made by others, some assemble them from kits and some buy them ready-made from an art supply store.  Some may do all of the above.  I prefer to make my own…partly for the cost savings, partly because I sometimes need a unique height and width combination, but mostly just because I enjoy the process.

I learned to do it while taking classes in the Art Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in the early 1970’s.  The sequence of actions, from selecting the wood, cutting and trimming mitered corners, constructing the cross bars, on into stretching the canvas itself…it all feels good, a connection to the history of painting and the comradeship of painters.  And it serves, too, as an unhurried build towards the action of painting itself - time for contemplating the work to come while enjoying the simple ritual of preparation.  Quiet and calm before the rush.

This is not to say all my stretcher bars are self-made.  About half of them are.  And I place no merit on the making of them, only that it pleases me to do it.

The real exhilaration starts once the stretched canvas is primed (the priming, too, is part of the ritual I guess) and the blank canvas awaits on the studio wall.  Infinite possibilities!