Recycling Canvases

Occasionally I go through my unfinished paintings and evaluate whether I want to even bother finishing, or if it’s time to recycle that particular canvas for something new. I like to pick out several to recycle at once, so I can work efficiently. To recycle my canvases, I start by washing off as much pastel and pva size as I can from the surface of the canvas, using a large scrub brush.

© Jana R. Johnson 2014Apr28--IMG_4730

© Jana R. Johnson 2014Apr28--IMG_4731

© Jana R. Johnson 2014Apr28--IMG_4733

After some vigorous scrubbing, I take wet sandpaper and sand off even more of the pastel and pva size with the hopes of returning the canvas to it’s original white primed surface. As you can see below, that’s usually not possible… hah

© Jana R. Johnson 2014Apr28--IMG_4734

Often, I’ll go ahead and use the canvas with the remains of some of the previous painting as a “toned” canvas surface. Other times I’ll put a coat of FSC-88 WB primer on to return the canvas to white – especially if I’m planning to watercolor the background and then add pastel on top. Here’s a link to a previous post that shows my canvas prep technique. 

Once I washed off the middle piece above, I realized I’d recycled this canvas before! It’s since been painted with it’s third attempt – we’ll see if it survives this time…



  1. Thank you so much for this. I have several old canvases that didn’t work, the thought of erasing them made me lazy, but washing is a better idea. Thanks for sharing!

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