Painting Large - getting started on some big canvases

I really like the challenge of painting large canvases, and this week I made a start of three of them.

1) A brand new commission, which is a portrait of a family of four dogs, two Cockerpoos, and two Border Terriers.  This piece its just shy of a metre in length, and 60 cms high.

2) A 60 x 70cm painting of a running horse

3) A 100 x 100 canvas featuring a seated black Labrador 

I find that I need to do quite careful 'mapping out' on a big canvas before I begin to paint.  Because of the size, it isn't possible to take in the whole piece at once and draw it  by eye.

 Measuring the proportions, using the dividers

Measuring the proportions, using the dividers

 

I use dividers and sharpie pens to mark out sections of a painting, check proportions and ensure that there is space for everything I want to include.  I do a quick plan on Photoshop, by creating a clipboard that is the same ratio as the canvas I am about to paint. Then I arrange the subject matter within the clipboard until I am happy to save it and use it.  I then use my proportional dividers to enlarge the photoshop image and transfer it onto my canvas. I don't put any detail in at this stage, just a rough map of where everything is going to go.

 I measure and mark out blocks where the main big shapes are going to be, in this case the four dogs faces,

I measure and mark out blocks where the main big shapes are going to be, in this case the four dogs faces,

Here is a short video clip of the beginning stages of the above commission. I'm going to film the entire process for my client so that she can watch the painting process all the way through.

Watch the video here

 The first wash of paint applied very thinly for a soft finish. Further layers will tighten it up and provide the details but for now, it stays loose.

The first wash of paint applied very thinly for a soft finish. Further layers will tighten it up and provide the details but for now, it stays loose.