Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Painting BIG

Our new place in West Hollywood has a 2-story living room, with a second-floor loft.  The big wall that extends the whole two storeys was calling out for a large piece of art.  Being frugal, not to mention cheap, we decided that I would paint some thing to fill the space.

I've been painting in acrylics for around 9 years, off and on, but before now my largest painting was 16 X 20 inches, and I hadn't even done very many of those.  I estimated the size available on the wall, and compared it to available canvas sizes, and decided a quadtych (4-panelled painting) of four 40 X 60 inch canvases would result in a painting of around 7 X 10 feet, which would use the available space pretty well.  Not only do they not sell canvases as large as what we needed, they would never fit through the doors of our condo.

Now, the idea of painting this large is pretty scary, especially when you consider the supplies alone cost close to $400 (American $!).  The chances for me to screw it up were substantial, but we really wanted a painting for that space, and buying one would cost thousands.  It's not even easy to find paintings that large anyway.

I had to do something relatively simple to minimize the risk of working past my abilities, because of the financial risks of screwing it up.  We could only afford one go at it!  An abstract would offer the best chance of working out, and would also suit the modern layout of the condo.  

Before diving in, I spent around 10 days doing sample paintings to choose something which would look good.  This is the one we ended up choosing, keeping in mind that the finished version always comes out differently.  This sample painting is around 7 X 10 inches:

The only space big enough to work on was the garage floor, so bye-bye car.  Here I am with the blank, scary canvases:

Just before doing the circles, I decided it would be fun to render them as a maze pattern instead.  I drew the circles in pencil, outlined a solution in masking tape, and then painted thin black lines on, to guide the application of paint (and they would still be visible through the paint to guide the final lines at the end):

Then I built up the paint in layers:

Every painting goes through an ugly stage, and this one was no exception.  I've been painting long enough to know it would probably come out OK in the end, but the evening after I got to the point below, with $400 on the line (American $!), I was kept awake a bit that night brainstorming how to salvage the canvases somehow to try something else if it just didn't work out:

By the way, painting this large is HARD.  I have a shaky hand at the best of times, and reaching the full length of my little arms and trying to make steady lines (especially the final layer when any mistakes would be virtually unfixable), and smooth paint, was really difficult, while balancing my middle-aged body on the hard concrete floor.  I had quite a bit of body pain while working on this.

Next a layer of blue, and I figured after this that yes, it would pull together and look OK:

Dark lines are finished!  The whole thing took around 9 days of painting (around 3 hours a day).  The painting doesn't look that huge while lying on the garage floor, but I stretched out beside it for perspective:

Next, the master picture hanger gets his turn.  Those degrees in engineering and architecture do get put to good use now and then!  This is an 18 foot ladder, and I am taking this photo from the loft, so Ed is pretty far off the ground.

Panel one is up!


And one more photo from the loft, with the black couch back in place under it:

I know abstract paintings aren't to everyone's taste, but we are really enjoying the effect this one has on the space.  As well, I figure people will at least find the solvable maze in this one to be cool.  (You can go from any circle centre to any other circle centre ... and it's not too frustrating, there is more than one solution.)