Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Painting on a large canvas

This was my first experience painting on such a large canvas. The canvas was not mounted on stretcher bars so that created another issue.  This project was done as a winter project as part of my Friends of Art Manchester group for another non-profit, Webster House . The painting above is acrylic on canvas and is approximately 4’ x 5’.  I thought it might be interesting to some of my readers to learn about the process.

If you have been following this blog for a while, you know that I had already made two studies of this scene, one is 8” x 10” and the second one is 16” X 20”. The larger one is currently on display at the Triangle Credit Union (Manchester, NH) for the month of March.  I submitted it to the Manchester Artists Association  and won one of the “Artist of the Month” certificates.

The walls at Webster House are very large and very bare, giving it an institutional feel.  Since we had already done two projects for Families in Transition , I thought Webster House might like something similar.  I made an appointment and went in to speak with the director.  He was thrilled with our idea and agreed to pay for the materials.  I measured the walls and figured that the small paintings we had done in the past would not work with those walls.  We had done a mural during the summer (30 feet long by 3 feet high). Each artist had a space of 3’ x 3’.  I thought we could go a little bigger. We did not want to do another mural as we wanted the paintings to be movable.

I priced out the canvas materials and asked for some samples from Big Duck Canvas.  They were happy to send me some samples. We agreed on the #12 primed canvas.  It would be very messy for us to have to prime the canvas first.  After more discussion, we decided to get extra canvas so that we could get a good discount and two of our members bought the extra.  One of our members warned us to buy the canvas on a roll, not folded as it would be difficult to get the folds out. That was good advice and we bought a roll of 12 yards.

Cutting the canvas to size was an interesting project as none of us had a big table. So we measured and cut the canvas on a cardboard mat on the floor.  Two of us had sewing machines and we stitched the edges of the canvas, making a big enough hem at the top for a curtain rod.  We thought about grommets to attach the canvas to the wall, but decided curtain rods would be easier.

Unfortunately hanging the blank canvas from the curtain rods did not provide a good, stiff surface to work on.  I bought a staple gun (for my smaller hands, my husband’s big one was too hard for me to use) and stapled the canvas to the wall.  I borrowed an Epson projector and projected the image on the canvas.  It was going to be way to much work to do a grid, which is what I usually do to go from 8” x 10” to 16” x 20”.  If you are thinking about buying an opaque projector, investigate carefully. The cheaper ones do not work well unless your room is completely dark.


This is what the image looked like projecting from my computer onto the canvas that was stapled on the wall.

Next step was to draw out the basic shapes. I did not need too much detail, but I needed the shapes to be in the correct proportions to each other. Photo below shows what the canvas looked like when the projector was turned off.

I started painting from the top down. I used a big brush and a step stool, but even so this was a little difficult for me, but I was enjoying seeing the painting progress. I used blue painter’s tape (like masking tape) to help me with the straight lines of the bridge, the pylons and mill buildings.
I started to add a little more detail.

Unfortunately, when I put in the river, I thought it would be better to leave a blank white area for the railing.  That did not work and I had to paint over the railing and repaint part of the river. I used a lighter cerulean blue/white mix underneath and a darker blue (Prussian) mix over it to give more of a sense of the river water (which is actually a bit rough in that area).

Once I fixed the river and had the railing in, I continued with underpainting some areas. I also got some help from another artist on some of the colors.  I had a hard time with the colors on the pylons.

And the final view while still stapled to the wall.  After I removed the staples, I had to touch up the canvas that was under the staples, but that was the easy part.  Deciding when the painting was actually done and not keep fiddling with it was harder.  This was a very challenging project and I was happy to take on the challenge. It took me over one month to complete.

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