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14. A little experiment with SIZE– Going BIG (calm down… this is about canvas size!)

Past: I’ve played around with different sized canvases and settled into size “medium” because they’re an easy size to work with and, for art buyers, an easy size to integrate into any space. But I’ve also played with “littles” (a mere 5x5”) and I love those as a way to pop in bitesize art where you least expect it.

Present: Something in me wanted to try going REALLY BIGGER. I had painted a 4x2’ and a 3x3’ but BIGGER. With those “biggish” sizes, managing space was tricky so, when I picked up and hauled in a canvas that was 6x3’ (this BIGGIE is taller than I am!) I had to hit pause, acknowledge the intimidation for a few weeks, and wait until I felt brave. Then one day I reminded myself that, with my largest canvases so far, I had loved the freedom of painting with a full arm sweep. Once I thought about how BIGGIE would allow for even more physicality in the creative process, I was motivated to maneuver him into my studio at the back of the house.

I should clearly disclose here that I’m a recovering controller of Things. Not All Things, but Some Things. As a long-time high school teacher, I had to design instruction, its modifications, track this and that, etc and etc. It was a lot. As a swim coach, you sure don’t show up to practice and tell your athletes, “Just do whatever feels right in your heart. Take the chance to soar. Be gentle with yourself. You can trust that The Path will appear in good time. I’m here for you, for however I can be of help.” (Oh I crack myself up, just imagining a group of teens on the pool deck and what would happen after those instructions.) But back to BIGGIE. With art, I try to drop control. Have no plan. Nothing. No ideas. Na da.

It’s the biggest challenge for the recovering controller: to start a creative project without thinking and planning a final outcome– but that’s where I want to be. And in these last years, I really have learned to relish the discovery that comes along the way. The surprises and reveals are what I love (which keeps me coming back for more and more). So, since I want to fall into the Creative Unknown, I’m getting better at defaulting into loose play. And it’s funny how this completely counterintuitive path isn’t efficient in the least and yet it’s pleasing and even joyful.

For me, to begin, I add lots of different things, knowing that most will be covered over (but not which ones). Here’s a look at the overly filled early canvas and the edited final piece.

Series Work: I played around for long enough with the biggest piece to like its look and its colors. When I flowed into a 3x3’ and a 3x4’, in comparison, they felt fairly easy because the bulk of the exploration was done previously. (I suppose this is why artists work on color swatches before launching into their actual series. Prep work helps? Imagine that.) As I work to finish the smaller two, I want there to be a cohesive thread that runs through them but I want each to be unique.

When they’re all completed, I have no idea where they’ll end up. Will they ever be displayed together? Will they separate and stand alone as singles? This whole process is about releasing tight control. So even not knowing what will happen to them, as a creative experience, I am loving the larger sizes and the linked series work.

Still in progress as a group.

The jewel tones against the light gray background is a combination that is both at peace and energized.

I love it!

Future: In the far future, I’d like to have a studio space that allows for ease when “working large.” By commandeering the diningroom, I can make this series of paintings work, but what would it be like to walk through a door and flip on a light in a big studio? Ah, a fledgling artist can dream…

In the closer future, I want to bring the feeling of “breathing space” from the LARGE size into the MEDIUMS which will mean that I’ve got to take my editing skills to a ruthless level. It’ll take a certain mood to ‘kill so many darlings’, but there are times and moods when I know I can do it! And MEDIUM sizes will let me move canvases and paint in my home studio room with ease. Plus, I know that more buyers have more possible places for MEDIUM sized art to fit their available spaces.

But it’s been fun to work on large statement pieces. And who knows– of these 3, whichever doesn’t “land” out in the world may be meant to stay in the diningroom, displayed where created. However that goes, it’ll be a final surprise in the series. More of the Creative Unknown.

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