Colleen and Annie: Raw Canvas Background

Posted by on Jul 30, 2015 in Fabric Portraits | No Comments

As labor intensive as the fabric painting of Colleen and Annie was, the background I had planned was going to be a snap.  A little messy, but still a snap. It was basically diluted acrylic paint used as a stain on damp, raw canvas.


First I tossed a yard or so of raw cotton canvas into the washing machine and ran it through the permanent press cycle.  Since I always purchase fabric with out sizing, I didn’t need any detergent.  If you are going to try this and have purchased commercial fabric, use some detergent to wash out any sizing so the fabric will accept colors better.  I removed the canvas from the washing machine and worked with it while it was still damp.  I wanted the colors to be able to move around a little as I worked with them.  I gently spread the fabric out on a table covered with plastic.  This is going to be drippy!!! (Now you know why I work int the basement.) Also I don’t smooth out all the wrinkles.  They are great for creating textures and collecting stains.

Below is a small sample piece that I tried out as I decided what color scheme I wanted to use.  I ended up working with more blues and grays on the final version.


I applied diluted acrylic paint by spattering, dripping, sponging, and brushing on paint.  Basically anything I could think of.  Notice the fabric was not smoothed out;  I wanted to take advantage of wrinkles as the stains worked their magic.  If your colors become too strong, try spraying with water and blotting with paper towels. If the fabric dries too much while working on it, just spray it with more water.


As the fabric begins to dry, I often take a brush charged with an accent color and drag it lightly over the raised areas of the wrinkles.


A sea sponge comes in handy for stamping and dragging color around.  The stained canvas will dry lighter than it appears wet, so that is also a consideration while working on it.  The canvas background may take a day or two to dry on its own.  Don’t try hanging it on a clothes line to dry.  I did this once and all the color ran to one side! Any excess liquid around the edges could be soaked up with some paper towels. I also let the canvas dry with the wrinkles in place.

In my next post you will be able to see how the Colleen and Annie project was all put together and completed with free-motion stitching.

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