Planning your large canvas to perfection

Some people are either daunted or excited by the prospect of painting on a large canvas. The immense blank white space can send artists cowering or as I find, a head spin into the numerous variations of different compositions you could paint! And, with any painting, this will change as you start to paint.

I like to set out with a plethora of small scale drawings before choosing one that will work the best. Having a main focal point with plenty of interesting movement will add to the dynamism of the picture. Once your composition is decided its then best to put down lots of colour washes as it further helps to get the composition in order. You can then start painting and building up the layers.

I also find it best not to focus on just one section of the canvas as you can find one area almost finished whilst the rest is still 95% undone. Not the best solution to achieving a sense of unity in your picture.

Here's a photo of a canvas painting I've recently started working on, part of a Finnish lake series, its important to me to get the basic colour washes down first so I get a truer sense of the vibe of the picture.

JD work in progress: March 2014

Like anything, the bigger the canvas the longer it will take you to finish it so make sure you have plenty of time set aside. Also if you plan on doing a series of paintings, it may be wise to take notes as to what order of washes/paint layering you have applied so you achieve a consistent unity throughout all your paintings. Make sure you have plenty of paint too, mixing the same colours will be harder if you haven't enough paint! Bigger brushes will save you time too particularly when applying colour washes.

Working on larger canvases can be really freeing and invigorating as your paint marks don't need to be so fine and detailed all the time, meaning your work can be much more emotive. You may find your adventurous side coming out and sneaking into your picture as you loosen up!

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