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How to Paint Large Paintings

Would you like to know how to paint large paintings?

As you progress you may eventually want to do a larger painting than the 12-X-16 or 16-x-20 inch canvases you have probably been using.

Oil paintings exhibited in most shows today are not as large as those displayed in the past.

Average sizes today are 25 x 30, 30 x 36, and 30 x 40 inches, plus the width of the frame.

Many art societies limit the overall size because wall space is limited, and since paintings often have to be transported from one place to another, size also helps limit transportation costs.

I would recommend that you paint your first large painting on a 25 x 30 inches canvas.

Ok, that is not an impressive size, compared to many of the paintings you may have seen exhibited,but it will offer enough problems for you to learn to tackle down.

By the time you finish with a painting of this size, you'll be ready to progress to larger paintings.

You should paint your first large painting in your studio, using one of your most successful small on-the-spot sketches for reference.

There are several ways of enlarging a sketch (click on that link to check them out).

Probably the best way is to redraw it with charcoal on the large white canvas: You can reshape, add to, or eliminate any areas you like, to help the painting.

Spot sketch can rarely be enlarged line for line to a larger canvas and still be a satisfactory composition.

You will also discover, very shortly after you begin to apply the paint, that color passages which seemed attractive in a small canvas have lost something when enlarged.

This is natural enough when you analyze the problem. On a small canvas bits of attractive color seem more exciting.

Sometimes they are only shapeless daubs of the brush but they add life to the sketch.

However, when you work large, these shapeless daubs and exciting bits of color must take form and be correct in tonal value.

This is where you may find your first challenge.

There is also the problem of paint quality.

A passage of painting that was pleasing in the small canvas often becomes very thin when enlarged.

The edges of the different color areas have to be handled more carefully. You cannot get away with just smudging it or making it fuzzy!

And finally, there is the drawing. What was just a few wisps of paint and a small walking figure must now be more delineated.

All these problems will have to be solved when doing the large canvas.

Use as large a brush as possible and do not be too concerned with brush work and textural quality at this stage.

Follow the form of the objects with the brush as simply as possible. Try to obtain a pleasing color arrangement, but, most importantly, concentrate on the correct values.

You may also want to experiment with underpainting when doing a large painting in the studio.

A vibrant effect is obtained by painting a warm color over an area that is to appear cooler in the final painting.

For example, the sky could be painted a pinkish tone, then the blue sky color applied over the pink.

You can carry such experiments further by allowing the undertone to dry thoroughly before painting over it.

This produces interesting color effects and textural quality.

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Rokeby Venus, by Velazquez


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