I recently switched to painting on Linen after using cotton canvas for 99% of my painting practice. I can’t adequately express how much happier I am painting on linen versus cotton canvas. The price of linen in comparison to cotton canvas always deterred me in the past from being serious about switching. Cotton canvas is so much cheaper! However, the difference in price is worth every penny for getting to paint on linen.
Linen is strong and durable and made from the fibers of the flax plant. It is laborious to produce and top quality flax is harvested mainly in Western Europe—the reason for its higher price. The threads that make up linen weigh the same and therefore are less prone to expansion or contraction due to moisture. Linen retains its natural oils which helps keep the surface from becoming brittle and cracking making it a more archival surface than cotton canvas
I personally prefer how the texture and weave of linen is more spontaneous than the mechanical weave of cotton canvas. As the linen surface has more ‘tooth’ to it (in my opinion) I find it easier to work into the painting without feeling like I am killing the surface. The linen I have been using is primed with oil primer instead of acrylic gesso. The colors are not absorbed into the canvas nearly as much as they are when painting on acrylic primed cotton canvas. The paint wipes away easily revealing a nearly perfect white canvas underneath.
Give oil primed linen a try if you have not already. I recently purchased Claessens Double oil primed sample ($22.39) to test out before investing further. It is always fun to try out new painting surfaces even if in the end you might prefer cotton canvas or something else more.