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Students are always looking for inexpensive ways to practice. Heck, even us older instructors like saving money. These suggestions will save you money!

Hi Darrell, I am enjoying the art instructional DVDs I purchased from you recently so much! My husband even became interested in painting, although he had never really tried it before. My daughter, who has had a passion for art since she was 2, (she’s 24 now,) is also impressed. She is very much into fine detail, but she tried your technique the other day when she was here, and she had so much fun with it!

Anyways, I was hoping you could answer a question about re-using canvases. I bought some large oil paintings at a garage sale and the paint on one was not thick at all, so I painted over it with white acrylic paint and was hoping to use it for oil painting. Will this work? It could save me some money, since I lost my job and I’m struggling to buy the supplies I need for painting. Thanks. Sue

Hi Sue

There are lots of choices for inexpensive practicing surfaces. But let me first thank you for your kind words. I’m very touched how your entire family is learning to “paint along.” It’ll be great fun, and yes you all can do this.

You can paint over your old paintings and redo, redo, redo!. Here are some of the many ways I’ve practiced

1. Just what you suggested except I used regular paint as opposed to acrylic. Gesso and acrylic will peel off of oils. Now if the canvas is intended only for practice and you don’t want to keep what you paint, then this is an excellent surface to paint on.

2. Canvas Sheets. Your local art stores often sells “pads” of Canvas paper. This is special paper designed to look and feel like canvas. You use them just like canvas. Only I mask tape the canvas paper onto a real canvas. This gives me the touch and feel of canvas without the expense. Paper Canvas Pads come in various sizes.  I use a 11″x14″ and 16″x20″. Quantities are around 10 to 25 per pad.

3. Masonite boards. A lot of people (including the old masters) paint on these surfaces, and you do lose the ˜bounce” of canvas. Prime with household paint or acrylic, sand, prime again. You can cut Masonite sheets up to any size you want.

4. Canvas boards. Just like Masonite with the exception these board surfaces have canvas paper glued to them. Now you get the look, but not the feel of canvas. This is very popular for many students, especially when painting with acrylics. If you’re using acrylics, remember the paints always level, so you can cover a painting with white paint or gesso, let dry and you essentially have a new canvas. After 7 coats of practice, I’ll put a final painting on this canvas and then select a new canvas board..

5. The Big Scrapper. I’ll buy a good canvas for practicing and each session when I’m done, I’ll scrape off my practice or painting and wash the surface with Odorless Mineral Spirits on paper towels. But don’t let the painting dry. Remember it’s a practice canvas so scrape it each time when you’re finished painting. Presto ready for me the next time I want to paint. This is by far the cheapest.

When I first started painting I used the big scrapper and then #2 for keeping works. I also bought a lot of canvases. Today I still use the canvas sheets and scrapping.

To come up with lion scenes for our Wildlife Series, I must have painted 15 different lions, lioness and cubs. Painting all of these exceeded $200 on canvas and that’s expensive. I kept my costs down on the studies I did by using canvas papers where I was trying to reduce the time, steps and complexities of certain animal features.