Liquitex have launched a new stretched canvas made out of recycled plastic bottles. I’m always quite excited to try new products and when I agreed to review this product I was very intrigued. How is it even possible to recycle bottles into canvas?
Liquitex Recycled Canvas
Reviewed by Maggie Lawrence
I received the package and upon opening the box, my first impression was not great. The canvas was shrink-wrapped in a film of single use plastic. Of course, I appreciate that no one wants to buy a grubby or scuffed canvas, and you might be able to recycle the wrap, but if you are marketing an eco-friendly product, I think a compostable film might have been better.
My first look at the canvas itself was one of surprise. It looks just like a regular primed medium/fine, primed cotton canvas. While the label doesn’t say what priming was used, it feels like a universal acrylic priming, and behaves like one too. When I applied paint, it adhered nicely and looks stable, without any oil seepage.
The tension was good, very drum-like, and there were the usual wooden pegs to help increase tension if needed. Not that there was a lot of give in my sample. The stretcher frame is pine and my sample had a depth of 1.91 cm / 0.75 in. There is also a deeper frame canvas available with a depth of 3.48 cm / 1.37 in.
In order to investigate the material further, I turned the canvas around and cut away a small section of the fold. Once I had done that I was able to tease away threads from the cloth. They do indeed look like regular heavy-duty cotton threads, the cloth is weaved in what appears to be the same way as a cotton cloth. To test that these threads were made out of plastic, I burnt one, and yes the fumes indicated it was definitely plastic! So in short the cloth is made up of woven threads made out of recycled plastic. Whilst I’ve not seen or heard of this process before, there have been polyester canvases on the market for years, and we are all familiar with nylon and acrylic materials made in a similar way. This canvas weight is heavy and comes in at 20 oz/sq yd or 565 gm/sq mtr, so roughly the weight of heavyweight jeans.
We have all left a stretched canvas in the wrong place, lent against another, and come back to an unpleasant dent. This would be my next test. I was unusually forceful creating dents and scrapes from the rear, far more vigour than that I would expect to happen in an accidental studio way. My usual repair method is to apply warm water to the rear and let nature rearrange the tension of the cotton threads in due course. I was fearful that applying water to a non-absorbant cloth would not work, but I needn’t have worried, the canvas miraculously came back to shape with a little warmth and rubbing and pretty much looked as good as new. In fact this canvas almost seems indestructible.
The price for new innovations is rarely at the low end, and this isn’t any different. The canvases come in at quite a high price, a 16 x 20 in canvas has an RRP of £23.75 which is a pound more than the Winsor & Newton Professional Cotton Canvas and more than double the Jackson’s Premium Cotton Canvas at £11.20.
My conclusion: Maybe I am a traditionalist, but I do feel a bit uncomfortable painting on plastic. That said the canvas is certainly tougher than cotton canvas and functions well, so definitely has its positives. The question of its green credentials, still leaves me wondering. Whilst the idea of using recycled plastic is admirable, there is no indication of the actual canvas’s recyclability, and I suspect that once painted on, recycling isn’t possible. So, I can’t help but wonder where the used canvas/recycled plastic will end up. Not all of us have the luxury of selling our work and having it hang on walls for centuries. I would have thought that many an unsuccessful painting, will find its way to a landfill, and if this is the case then I think a natural linen canvas might actually be better for the environment, for compostability issues anyway. If all plastic is recycled once, and then ends up in landfill, we are only delaying the problem and not solving it. I can’t help but think that perhaps plastic bottles should only be recycled to make more plastic bottles.
That all said, it is great that people are thinking about the environment and as a product itself, albeit expensive, it works perfectly well.