View Full Version : Going Big

04-01-2015, 10:14 AM
I keep being asked by friends, "when are you going to paint something big." Most of my pastel work has been in the 5x7 or 8 x10 size. I tried a landscape 12 x20 but like all my landscapes it was awful. I have done some still life oil paintings on 16 x 20 and 12x24 and 12x36 that were fairly successful, but pastel painting, though I have seen some really beautiful large pastel paintings, seems to be more of a challenge. Any advice for someone who wants to "go big?"

04-01-2015, 01:40 PM
I went big some years ago and did a series of big cats almost life sized. My favorite was a puma that looked as if he was in the room on a Hahnemuhle velour board, the full size of the board. It was the size of an un cut mat board which would have made matting it tricky. Velour actually worked well for going huge.

Use big strokes. Block in well. If you're doing a landscape, why not put an animal in it? The animal would look best somewhere in the middle ground, not right down at the very bottom of the painting but it would naturally be the focal point - maybe a bear or elk or something big enough, whatever animal you like. Do an odd number of them if you're going to put in more than one.

On a big painting you can get more complex with the composition. You can have a deer painted as if it was the whole painting on an 8 x 10" and get pretty detailed around him as he picks up his head while the doe and the fawn are drinking from a pond, cause the big buck's on guard. They wouldn't all drink at once. But you could also up in another place have a distant vee of ducks or geese.

But you choose your focal areas and get very loose and blocky elsewhere in the painting, not detailed all over.

Plan the painting with the focal area around the deer, bear etc. Sketch the critters as a preliminary sketch, small. Do thumbnails to create the setting with a teeny scribble for the animals.

It helps big paintiings to do a series of preliminary sketches before doing the big one. Plan the layout. Then after you do a bunch of thumbnails to plan it, do a small 5 x 7 or 6 x 8 or evn 8 x 10" version of it, not too detailed, to work out your colors. Use th same pastels you will on the big one.

Then do the big one working loose to tight. Leave the details till last, scribble and do big bold strokes with the sides of the pastels, just a value block-in at first, then get more detail on later layers. If you do an underpainting you can even let that show in places it looks good. Get wild and loose, then finish it drawing closer and closr to where the animals go. When it's all done finish that area last. You might want to draw in the animals with charcoal and work around them then do them at the end.

That way you're not trying to cover an 18" x 24" sheet with th same amount of work as you would an 8 x 10" painting. Same layering but make strokes bold and big. It may look bad right before the end if everything builds up to the focal point bt there's nothing there - and then snap to Wow as soon as the final details are in. Don't give up at the Ugly Stage, just keep going and the finish won't ruin it but make it awesome.

Barbara WC
04-01-2015, 02:36 PM
I had the same problem in watercolor- but have the reverse problem in pastel.

In watercolor, I just couldn't get over the 9"x12" size, mostly was painting smaller than that. I took a class and the teacher only allowed us half sheets, 11"x15", and with that, larger brushes had to be used.

In pastel, my first introduction was figure drawing with pastels, and we used a full sheet of Canson Mi-tientes. Now I find it hard to go much smaller than 9"x12" (most of my work is 12"x16").

You can't force it- just move up slowly. Next from where you are is 9"x12". Try that size next once you are comfortable with 8"x10".

A couple of tips: start with a subject matter you LIKE! If you have trouble with landscapes, but more comfortable with still-life, try a larger size with still-life first.

Use the sides of your pastel sticks to cover more surface area. I don't know what brand you are using, but if you are using something that has paper on them, take the paper off and break the sticks in half (or even some of the longer sticks that have no paper- break those in half too).

There is nothing wrong with painting small, and actually, they are easier to frame and give as gifts, or sell online if you are into that. The larger your pastel paintings get, the more it will cost to have them framed!

Keep painting small until you are ready to move up...

ural jones
04-01-2015, 04:23 PM
Well, I have the opposite problem. I didn't realize what 'big' meant until I saw what small means. Going small means you must be aware of exactly what the single stroke will appear as. it is going small that bothers me. The smallest one I have done so far is the Belgian woods! Fun but it was strange for me.:clear:

04-02-2015, 08:29 AM
Hi Norma. I follow Karen Margulis's blog and she has an entry about Painting Big Tips on March 28th (http://karenmargulis.com). Just scroll down til you find the date. I find her large landscapes to be beautiful and loose. Hope this helps.

04-02-2015, 11:24 AM
Thanks all for the helpful suggestions. This month's spot light cchallenge might be good time to move up to 9x12 as suggested. I do like the lake scene, but it IS a landscape which I find so difficult. But.... it's only paper and dust, right?

04-02-2015, 03:40 PM
Based on advice received in this thread I viewed Karen Margulis' blog on going big. Moved up to 9x12 to do a submission to the monthly spotlight challenge. A landscape no less. I am actually surprised at how it came out!