David Norcross

Linen Ladies

I devote a lot of mental time trying to come up with new and inventive uses of common materials to play with and possibly add to my mix of media. Sometimes it works and sometimes it fails, but it’s always exciting for me. I go into these ventures cautiously – I may get super stoked about a new idea and purchase all of the materials, but then mull the next step over for a year or longer. That may seem senseless, but I have about 10 or more projects stored in my head at all times. Some of them new and some old, some I know will be worth doing and some I am still questioning.

These Linen Ladies are my most recent venture brought to life. And yes, I bought the embroidery hoops to do this project about a year ago. Originally my plan was to use my heavy weight cotton canvas, but I thought that it might be better to try a thinner material so that it would lay flat and stretch tighter. In the painting world linen is on the high end and canvas is a much more economical painting surface. I have never used linen so I was intrigued to see its similarities and differences to canvas. I found a bolt in a natural looking color similar to canvas at a local fabric store and purchased a yard.


I knew it would look great in my hoops, but I didn’t know how it would handle my paint. I had heard how smooth painting was with linen and was excited to test my lining skills. My error was that I wanted to maintain the natural color of the linen and not prime it with gesso – only painting my figure and not her background. That first painting session ended with me being frustrated. By not priming first and sanding my surface, my paint would immediately soak into the fabric and I mean SOAK. I knew right away that this would eat up all my paint and I was not at all thrilled with my line quality. So I left it alone for a while. When I got excited about it again, I started by cutting my linen into squares that would fit my hoops, stretching them, priming them and trimming them out. Finally, using embroidery thread I sewed the backs of each so they would lay flat and hide my extra linen.


Then I was ready to start brainstorming and sketching out my ideas for my compositions. It’s been a while since I have painted shapely figures and I was ready to make some new images based on the female form. And that’s how I got to this point in this new little mini-series of funky ladies. I have to say that once I put down my layers of gesso and lightly sanded my surface, I was thrilled with how smooth the paint flowed off my brush. I really enjoyed painting on these and feel that I could get some nice details working with linen. Not all of these works are finished, obviously, but I wanted to show them in varying stages. I am in love with the wooden ready frame of the embroidery hoop, the smoothness of the linen, and the shape and scale of these new paintings. I also dig the feminine vibe that the embroidery hoop adds with the pinup feel of the subjects. Its one of my ideas that I feel worked out and was worth the investment bringing to life.

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