By Melissa Pierce
This Johanna Basford coloring canvas held a couple of firsts for me. It was my first attempt at coloring anything by Johanna Basford. It was also my first attempt at coloring on canvas of any kind. There are 21 different canvases to choose from that come from four of Johanna Basford’s books. The canvas I chose to try was the tiger from Magical Jungle. It has a good mix of larger spaces to practice feeling out the material for marker bleed with enough detail that it doesn’t look plain even without many small spaces.
Each canvas is printed on 8oz. cotton that is primed with acrylic gesso and then stretched around an acid-free paper board for stability. The canvas has then been mounted onto a ¾ “deep pine frame. The pine frame is made ready to hang. There are two different size options. The one I have is 12”x 12” and there are also larger 12”x 24” sizes. They are made to color with markers or paint and there is a set of markers that they sell and recommend for use with these canvases called Art Alternatives #coloring Markers. Those markers are alcohol based and have a brush tip and fine tip. I did not use those markers but did use and try different brands and kinds of markers on the one I colored.
The canvas has a texture that is rough and has deep pockets within it as well as a coating on it. It is recommended to use alcohol based markers on these canvases. I tried using Sharpie and Bic Mark Its, both in fine and ultra-fine sized tips. The canvas did not take the color well and made the markers stop working after a short period of time using them on it. I would have to scribble them for a while on regular paper to make them work again after use on the canvas. I also tried using Spectrum Noir alcohol based markers on it thinking that maybe they were a juicier, wetter ink but again had the same results as with the Sharpie and Bic Mark Its. I then switched to water based markers and had much better results. In water based markers, I ended up using Crayola Supertips which worked the best as well as Staedtler and Stabilo brands of fineliner markers for smaller details and some blending. I also used Wamu and Leisure Arts brands of water based markers. I then tried Sharpie brush tip markers and they also worked pretty well and spread much better without the constant stopping of ink flow that I had with the regular tipped Sharpies and Bic Mark Its. I would suggest using either water based markers or brush tip alcohol based markers.
When coloring these canvases, I would recommend letting each part dry completely before moving on to the next part. I did not do this step and had a lot of smearing of colors. The marker got all over the side of my hand that rested on the canvas even after it felt dry so I would suggest putting a sheet of paper over the colored parts while continuing to color it. The roughness of the material made some of the markers have to be almost scrubbed into it for the first layer of color. The material took layering very well and actually seemed to soften up as more layers were applied, which made them easier to apply. Blending with the water based markers was also done pretty easily as this was an additional layer. I did not have a problem with marker bleed out of the lines even after the material softened upon adding extra layers of marker to it. I did try to highlight with some white pencil and would not recommend trying pencil of any kind on this as the texture is too rough and pencils do not cover well. The company recommends finishing your canvas off with a clear UV resistant fixative spray to protect the colors from fading.
Overall, I enjoyed this challenge of trying something completely new and outside of what I normally color. It started out harder than I expected it would be to color and to get it to take color, but once I figured out what worked on the material and texture, it was very enjoyable to do. I am pretty proud of how it turned out in the end and that makes the challenge and setbacks worth it. This is something I would try again and actually have a couple of the other designs picked out to color as gifts. If you love Johanna Basford’s books and want to have some of her art to hang in your home or office, these canvases would definitely be worth trying. They are available to purchase on Amazon.