How often do we look at a painting and wonder how the canvas was stretched or the frame built? More times than not, we probably look at the colors and shapes, have our experience for good or ill, and move on.
But there is a fascinating world behind that work of art that we all too easily miss. DiscoverSD recently sat down with John Lidot of Giant Canvas Co., who is beloved by artists and gallery owners countywide, and talked with him about what it’s like to build the foundation to great works of art.
Q: How did you start stretching canvas?
A: I opened in 2008 out of my garage, and it wasn’t meant to be full time. I was going to have an art business painting and selling locally and on eBay. At one point, I had 15 leftover canvases and I thought, “I wonder if I posted them on Craigslist ... would anyone would buy them?” (laughs) I got 30 responses. From there it was nonstop go.
Q: Who are some of the local artists and galleries you work with?
A: Gloria Muriel, Sarah Stieber, Stephanie Page and Erik Skoldberg are just a few. The gallery owner Alex Salazar, we started working together almost right from the beginning, and he still sends me work. Shane Bowden, he has five or six galleries worldwide, and will call and want 50 canvases (chuckles). We have to schedule that.
Q: Are there different types of canvas?
A: There are varying degrees of quality, and a range of weights of canvas and types of wood. That comes into play when you are represented by a gallery, and you are selling works $10k and up. A gallery is going to expect the highest quality of wood and canvas.
Q: What’s the difference in primed and unprimed canvas?
A: Think of primer as glue, the connection between paint and the canvas. Generally people want white behind the color. Some artists will prime canvas 30 times until it looks like paper.
The opposite of that is an artist like Francis Bacon, who worked on unprimed canvas, and wanted that mark in the canvas. He said, “It’s indelible.” He would actually buy primed canvas, flip it over and use the unprimed side.
Q: This is fascinating. How does primed or unprimed affect the artist at work?
A: When the canvas is unprimed, your brush gets resistance, and you feel it against your hand. It really depends on how fast you want your stroke. When it’s primed, the speed of your brush changes.
Q: I can tell you feel connected to art and your work.
A: It’s funny, I can look at wood and know if it will be good, what kind of density it will have. It has become such a part of my life. The timing is right, there is a feel, you can tell that canvas is destined for something important.
Q: How does someone come to you for custom-built canvases?
A: There are a few things I’m really interested in. Stretching prepainted canvas for an artist, or if someone buys a painting overseas, and they need it stretched. Printers who might be considering printing on canvas, and are concerned how to get them stretched. And also, when artists get a commission, and need a specific size down to a half inch. It’s difficult to find that in art stores.
Q: How does it feel to go to art exhibitions and see your work?
A: It’s a strange feeling to walk into an art show, and 90 percent of the canvases are from the shop. I’ve touched those canvases. It’s like babies moving into their own lives. It’s such a gift to be a part of the art community. I am grateful and blessed.
For inquires on Lidot’s custom canvases, go to giantcanvas.com.
Laurie Delk is an avid art historian, holding a master’s degree in Art History, with concentrations in the Modern and Postmodern movements. She has taught classes at Tulane University, and has been published with several art publications including Sculpture Magazine and New Orleans Art Review. Send ideas for art stories to email@example.com.