DEFINE LARGE FOR YOURSELF
In my opinion, large is totally subjective. For example, for me large is working on a surface at least 2 feet X 3 feet. For others it may be working on a surface that is 11x 14 inches. Start by deciding what feels big (or at least bigger than how you normally work), start from there and work your way up.
GET CREATIVE WITH SPACE
Working large requires the space to work large! Before deciding how big you want to go you will need to figure out where you will work. The floor is my favorite place to work large. I like to spread out my materials and crawl around my surface (though I must warn that it's hard on your back and knees).
- The wall is another great place for working large- if you have wall to spare, you can staple your canvas, fabric or paper to it and create standing up.
- An easel also work great for large surfaces like stretched canvas or wood.
- A table top also works well for large surfaces- you can walk around the surface as you work.
- In the summer months I like to paint outside and will throw drop clothes over the driveway and then use that space for painting.
- A fold up card table can be really handy because you can pull it out and set it up anywhere to paint on!
IT TAKES A LOT OF SUPPLIES TO FILL THAT SPACE
Another thing to consider is that the larger you work, the more paint (and supplies) you will need to fill that space up. This is something that often gets overlooked- making big pieces of art can end up being expensive because of all the paint that you need. My favorite trick that I have been using since college paintings classes it to use house paint to prime my surface, for splattering and drips and for mixing with my smaller tubes of acrylic paint. If you can't afford gesso, house paint it the next best thing if you are on a budget!
GET CREATIVE WITH YOUR SURFACE
It's easy to think that canvas is the only material to use when painting large but there are all kinds of different surfaces that will work-
Canvas: Canvas will always be my favorite surface to work on but it can get expensive when working large. Here are a a couple of my cost saving tips-
- Purchasing large canvas that is stretched is really expensive so I always recommend learning to stretch your own. Most art supply stores will sell stretcher bars and yardage of canvas- sometimes they will actually show you how to stretch or there are all kinds of resources online when it comes to stretching. I shared THIS POST a few years ago on stretching canvas.
- I love using canvas drop clothes from Home Depot- they are an affordable way to work large with canvas
Dick Blick has EVERYTHING you can imagine when it comes to canvas HERE
Canvas by the yard- HERE
Stretched canvas - HERE
Canvas drop cloths from Home Depot- HERE
Fabric: If you are not ready to commit to purchasing canvas but you want to try working large, I recommend purchasing a couple yards of fabric or even an old sheet. Use it like you would use canvas.
You can find all kinds fabric to paint on at any fabric store. My favorite fabrics to paint on are- broadcloth, denim, cotton drill cloth (this feels very much like canvas but is much lights and has a smoother surface that is easy to cover with paint and is quite affordable
Paper: Working large on paper is a great way to experiment with going big. Craft paper, painter's paper (used to cover the floor when painting) or butcher paper all take paint and layers of mixed media techniques really well. The best part is that you can roll that art up and it's easy to store.
White utility paper- HERE
Butcher paper- HERE
All purpose brown paper- HERE
Wood: I love working on a wood surface- it is another really afforable way to get the experience of going big without breaking the bank. Sheets of plywood are typically the cheapest and are readily available at most home improvement stores. Most of these stores will cut that wood to size for a small fee. If you are really working on a budget, try looking through the scrap bins at home improvement stores- you can find all kinds of larger scraps of wood for half the price!
A Wall: There is nothing better than a big blank wall ready to be painted! It's not for everyone but a wall is a great surface for large creative projects.
MAKE A PLAN
Typically I work very spontaneous and intuitively but when I am working large I do take a little time to make a color plan. Since working large requires more paint, I don't like to waste paint on making choices that don't feel right to me. I take a little time to select a color scheme and I keep those colors on close at hand while I am painting.
USE YOUR FAVORITE TECHNIQUES
Whenever I teach painting classes about working large I am surprised at how hesitant students are to use mixed media techniques on a big surface. Anything, I mean anything can be used- collage, doodling, drawing, layering, stamping, stenciling, free writing, etc are all techniques that work really well. The only thing to remember is that it takes more work, sometimes different supplies and more time when applying those techniques.
USE A VARIETY OF SUPPLIES
When I am working large I like to keep a variety of supplies (in different shapes and sizes) on hand. For example I always have thick Sharpies and paint pens, a variety of medium-large brushes, a large palette knife and larger stamps and stencils. Tiny details made with tiny supplies don't translate that well when creating large so working with a variety of tools in different sizes is handy.
Interested in learning more about painting and creating large? Check out my online class Larger Than Life HERE