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Painting on Hemp: How the Ancient Material is Making a Comeback

Hemp canvases have been around for a long time, but they became less common when cannabis was prohibited. Find out more about hemp canvases and why you might want to try it.
1-5 Painting on Hemp Canvas

We have all heard about how useful hemp plants are for making a wide range of materials, but did you know that hemp artist’s canvases were once extremely popular? There is a long history of painters using this ingenious fabric to enhance their artistic endeavours and modern artists are continuing in this tradition. Since legalization of recreational cannabis, artists are able to return to this eco-friendly and economical support for their paintings.

The Long History of Painting on Hemp Canvas

People have been making fabric from hemp fibres for thousands of years. Some historians have documented people in China making cloth out of hemp as long ago as 3,000 B.C. It wasn’t until the Italian Renaissance (15th and 16th centuries) that hemp canvas become popular with painters, though. Before then, artists used mostly wood panels or frescos as supports for their paintings.

The first painting canvases were made from woven hemp or linen fibres. Canvases allowed painters to use supports that were lighter weight, more portable, and very affordable. Hemp was the preferred material over linen because of its strength and because it was less likely to rot over time.

Many of the masterpieces in art galleries around the world are painted on hemp canvases. It remained a popular choice until the prohibition against cannabis began in the 20th century.

Hemp is the Perfect Painting Canvas Material

Before the legalization of cannabis for recreational use, it was difficult for artists to find hemp canvases in the high-quality weave that is required for painting. These days, hemp artists canvases come in a wide range of colours, weaves, weights, and blends. Artists can choose finer or rough weaves depending on their desired application. Hemp fibres are commonly blended with cotton muslin or polyester in order to create the final hemp canvas.

According to artist Leo Mancini-Hresko, hemp canvas is less likely to contract and expand with humidity, which reduces the likelihood that the paint will crack over time.

Buying Hemp Canvases

While hemp canvases are becoming popular once again, it still can be difficult to source pre-stretched hemp canvases for painting. Many artists order their preferred canvas from online retailers and stretch their own over a frame. This requires skill and a few supplies, but it allows artists create canvases that are the exact size and shape they need.  As the popularity increases, expect to see more pre-stretched hemp canvases in artist supply stores near you.

Whether you are an experienced painter or just learning, it may be worth your while to try a hemp canvas for your next piece.

CPC-logoThis story was made possible by our Community Partners Program. Thank you Revive Cannabis for helping to expand local news coverage in Alberta. Learn more.
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