Creating Large-Scale Paintings
By Artist Susan Stuart
My process of working with oil paints begins with stretching a medium textured, unprimed, linen canvas onto a stretcher frame. This canvas is then primed with three coats of a sizing glue. This special glue is applied while hot and brushed onto the surface of the canvas to protect the fibers from the oils in the paint, which (over time) would actually disintegrate the fabric. Once dried, there is a roughness to the surface, which holds the oil paints and soft pastels.
UNIQUE TECHNIQUE POINTS
The dried sized canvas is as tight as a drum and will withstand the pressure of applying the oil paint, the pressure of rubbing the soft pastel into the wet paint and the occasional rubbing of pumice into the wet paint, as well. Because the glue is clear and because I love the natural tone of the linen, I will sometimes leave some of the primed surface showing through.
Once the canvas has been prepped, I begin to sketch. I either draw freehand directly onto the surface, or I may use a projector to project an image onto the canvas. The image is drawn using a soft pastel. Once an image has been drawn, I block in large areas of color. Following this, using the oil paint and a #2 round easel brush, I do a final contour line drawing on top of the pastel image. This then becomes the “bones” or underlying “structure” of the painting.
As I’m painting, I place the canvas on a horizontal surface, intentionally positioning the work so that the image is actually upside down. With the canvas positioned this way, I’m less conscious of the actual image, and, therefore, I am free to concentrate solely on the shapes and colors before me. While layering in details with the oils, the soft pastels will be intermixed with the wet paint to create subtle variations in color. Often I paint holding as many as 3 round easel brushes in my hand at one time. These multiple soft bristle brushes create an active surfaces of color and brush work.
This initial stage of applying the paint is the most exciting for me as I don’t know the effects of the color and brush strokes until I set the painting right side-up in a vertical position on my studio wall. Then, stepping back to look at the work from a distance, I see the image for the first time. I will continue working on the painting in this manner until it requires to be positioned vertically. At that time, the canvas will remain in this traditional vertical position as I finish the work.
Stop by Main Street Arts to see Susan Stuart’s paintings in our current exhibition House and Home (runs through August 19). View her work online at www.susanstuart.com. Contact Susan at email@example.com.
Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by painter Christopher Baker.