Thursday, November 11, 2010

More on Large-Format Painting

Lee Mountain and the Rabbit Ears Formation (WIP), 9x24, pastel

As I mentioned in my last post, this week I'm teaching an advanced workshop, the topic of which is large-format painting. A student asked: But why paint large outdoors? Indeed, large paintings are a lot of trouble, especially outdoors.

Usually, you'll see outdoor painters painting small pieces. Small pieces go faster, and they're easier to transport. They also force you to work mostly with big shapes, which is a real plus if your goal is to capture the sweeping generalities of mood and magic. Large pieces take longer, and if the light changes quickly, they must be completed over several sessions. They're also harder to lug to the field - watch out for prickly pears and cat-claw acacia! - and if you tote them in your compact sedan, it'll be hard to keep paint off the back seat. But worse yet, it's easy to get trapped in detail too soon, causing unfinished areas of the painting to suffer.

Well, then, for that matter, why paint large in the studio? Besides the convenience of a coffee maker and a bug-free zone, it gives you a chance to work with larger rhythms, rhythms that are impossible within the confines of a 9x12 format. You can put your whole arm into sketching the sweep of a mountain range. You also have the opportunity to play with more complex compositions that may not succeed in a smaller size and to develop more fully small areas that, when scaled up, may seem flat otherwise. And ultimately, it gives you a chance to really breathe while you work.

All these also hold true for painting large outdoors.

Above is a piece I started today, a 9x24 pastel. I'll go back on location tomorrow to work more on it. Below is the scene.

4 comments:

Celeste Bergin said...

I love this large painting out there in that large scenery! wow!

mike rooney studios said...

michael- love the super long horizontal format on this one. its gonna be nice!

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Thanks, Celeste and Mike!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! You are a great painter! The long format is amazing and it would look very nice mounted on a wall too! Keep painting…. keep creating and never stop!