I have now finished my first big canvas painting. It is called “Human Nature.”
1) Smaller Paintings Can Take As Much Time
About two years ago, when I left my day job, I had a dream about creating a big painting. But my job is to teach art, and I don’t have much spare time, so it felt impossible to fit in the schedule. Now when I think about that, I kind of feel that the lack of time was an excuse. I think I was intimidated even by the thought of painting on a big canvas. The usual question raised: “What should I paint?” And then: “How could I maintain my focus for such a long time?” I exaggerated the time that painting would take. I thought it would take months and months. But when I started painting, I realized that I could use broader brushes and be less detailed. If you have ever tried to make small paintings as finished and polished as possible, it takes a long time. Adjusting the details on a big canvas is much easier.
2) Use an Easel, at Least in the Beginning and Finishing Phases
My canvas was not huge. It’s 60 cm x 50 cm (appr. 23.5 x 19.5 inches) Still, it was hard to see the whole painting when it was laid down on the table. I painted parts of the canvas so that it was on the table but set the foundation and finished the final details with the help of the easel.
My easel also has sentimental value. My father who passed away a long time ago has made it. He was a skilled woodworker. We didn’t talk much, but I think that making the easel was his way to encourage me to paint.
3) Eat the Elephant One Bite at a Time
I got the courage to start the painting when I realized that I could combine painting with building an art class. My upcoming workshop Nature in Your Mind (do sign up!) has instructions for the techniques that I used. I treated the canvas as my sketching board for the class.
For example, the project for the first week of the class is “Rising Butterfly.” I practiced the techniques on a big canvas and then sought for the easiest and most enjoyable way to create a butterfly on a smaller canvas.
This kind of experimenting transformed the big canvas to my playground. The size was no longer intimidating.
4) Big Brushes are Great for Details
Thin lines, little dots, all look so much better when working with a big brush! It has changed my attitude towards broader brushes. I have started to use them on smaller paintings too.
It was surprising that sharp lines can be so easy with a big brush!
5) Big Canvas, Big Story
If you have been following my blog for a while, you know that my style is detailed. I know now why I wanted so badly to create a big painting and why I was so intimidated by it. You can express a much greater story on a big canvas. It’s much easier to create images that are like events or scenes on a big canvas. When one detail connects with another, it’s like moving from one chapter of a book to the next one.
My story is about human nature: how we are spiritual beings, have imagination and ideas and are conscious about the circle of life. I doubt if I could have expressed all this on a smaller canvas.
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