Boring subject? Maybe, but I just came across an old video of a plein air painter that I found really useful. The artist is names John Stobart, he’s still alive according to wikipedia & age 93 as of this post in April 2022. His website has some more stuff about him and it’s currently sending a link to his YouTube Channel. It’s really worth checking out and I was surprised that I had never really seen any of this content before now. I am not sure where it originally aired.


There are some great tips in his videos on painting and they all still apply today, probably 30+ years after the videos origin. The one illustrated here is about setting up your own canvas. Store-bought canvasses can be incredibly easy, cheap and readily available. For a recent commission I purchased a nice quality canvas from Blick. But honestly I struggle with the weave of the canvas. More texture than I like seems to come through in the end product.

canvas weave detail

Prints available for purchase on Etsy

If you look closely at this detail image of my recent painting called Sunset Session, you will see a moiré pattern caused by the weave of the canvas.

One thing I really like about his technique is the gessoing process done with a credit card. Wow, such a simple way to get a smooth surface. I love this idea. My technique has been to really lay  gesso on thick with a brush, trying to fill in the little weave patterns, but it doesn’t work great. Then there is a lot of sanding because of brush marks. Most of my canvasses come pre-primed so I should not need a ton of priming on it.

I use Liquitex Acrylic Gesso, typically the Basics line is fine for me. I have used all different brands like Blick or others, but Liquitex seems to be readily available everywhere and affordable.

The canvas I have been using lately
PHOENIX Linen Stretched Canvas. Super affordable and built well. Comes in multi-packs.

Screenshot from John Staub video

John Stobart’s next step is to pre-tone the canvas with a wash of mineral spirits and burnt sienna. This is a common practice which I employ a lot, but I almost never do it ahead of time. I think it makes sense to do that before heading out. Anything you can do to make your life easier while painting outdoors is smart. More time to paint and capture the light. Again, simple but effective.

Mineral Spirits
I prefer Gamblin products whenever possible. Gamsol is a less toxic thinner. The package says it’s safer for painters and it’s truly odorless.

Oil Paint
Gamblin oil paints is my preference if I can get it. I like the Artists Grade Burnt Sienna Oil Paint. Gamblin Artist’s Oil colors are completely non-toxic when used as recommended.

John Stobart

John Stobart youtube channel

John Stobart website

I even found some of his prints available on ebay.

*Just a quick note, there are Amazon affiliate links here where I talk about my process. If you buy something using one of these links I will receive a small commission. Every little bit helps.