Sunday, June 29, 2008

Working Larger

"Under a Big Sky"
Oil on Canvas

I've had the luxury of working on some larger paintings for the past couple of weeks. It's always more of a challenge to make a composition work on a larger scale, but I love the impact a bigger painting can make if done well.

This painting is an enlargement of a 12x16" study I did at the beginning of this year. I posted it here along with the Willa Cather quote that originally inspired my to paint it - the gist of it is how big the sky is out West, dwarfing everything below it. I liked how the study turned out, and wanted to explore it a bit further. In the bigger version, I pushed the idea a bit further, increasing the scale of the sky compared to the mountains below, and exaggerating the curvature of the clouds to add more movement. I also added a bit more complexity to the foreground and added some more of the city lights, just to underscore how small we all really are here.

On another note, this was the first painting I've done on canvas this year, and I HATED the surface. Guess my obsession with smooth panels will continue - now I need to find something suitable for bigger paintings...

I've got a few more of these larger paintings on the easel, and after a weekend of relaxing I'm chomping at the bit to get back into the studio and work on them!


  1. wow stacey! i can only imagine how impressive this one looks in person.! the sky is amazing, and although it really is the focal point i really enjoyed looking over all of the details in the landscape below.

    have you tried Fredrick's Portrait Canvas? they have prestretched sizes and rolls, and it's a much tighter weave that is gessoed pretty smooth, much more than regular canvas. i've been able to get pretty crisp detail on it and hardly notice any texture, and i paint thin.

  2. I love this, better then the original study. Must be great to see it in front of you rather than on th screen.
    You can gesso the ready to use streched canvas a couple of more times and even sand it when dry to get a real smooth surface.

  3. So impressive! This shows the feeling of "big wide open spaces" so well.

    I, too, usually work on panels, but have moved to stretched canvas for larger ones. Was it only the texture that you hated? I prefer the panels as well, but do because I like the solid support. I'm not as comfortable with the "give" in the canvas.

  4. What a beautify painting. It reminds me of the best of the Hudson River School with a Western touch.

    I have a good friend, Michael Pearce, who does mammoth sized paints, 5' x 8' and larger. He will use nothing but cradled birch as a support. Too pricey for me, but it is really a great, smooth surface.

    I have also heard of more artists using a material called Dibond. Made of two thin layers of aluminum sandwiching hard plastic core. It is ultra strong, very smooth and light weight. It is the material use on Frank Gehry's Disney Opera House and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain. The National Portrait Gallery conservator recommends its use as an oil painting support. I found this link to Simon Liu Inc., a company that makes Dibond cradled art panels.

    The small panels have a great reputation for plein aire painting because they are so stiff and light weight.

  5. Christine - thanks, I'm glad you like it. I've actually thought about trying a portrait canvas since the weave is finer. I paint fairly thick, but I hate the weave to show through in thinner passages!!

    Indiaartist - I actually do put a couple coats of gesso on the canvas before I paint on it in an attempt to fill the weave. I always wonder if it would eventually increase the odds of cracking if I put it on too thick?

    Tracy - it's the texture that bothers me. I don't know why, since it never bothers me on other people's paintings, but I just like the way my brushstrokes look on a smooth surface!

    Michael - thank you for the link!! Those panels look like they're top quality - I'll have to try some out sometime. They're definitely pricier, but I think at some point I'm going to have to accept that!

  6. Hey Stacey, I just got this from New Traditions Art Panels:

    "Typically artist's use the 1/2" Gatorfoam. Occasionally we do the larger panels in birch, and are limited to 48"x60". The Gatorfoam can go as large as 48"x96", and the Dibond as well."

    I was have used Gatorfoam before and love the toughness with the light weight and the ability to create my own textured base.

    Best, Mike

  7. I like the curve of the clouds a lot. I remember the smaller version.

    Maybe an oil primed linen would work better than gesso. You could always work on it un stretched tacked to a board and then stretch it when your done if you dont like the give.
    Or just a large masonite board, why not?

    I forgot to say how much I liked the lower right foreground in the above painting.