Wednesday, 17 February 2016


OCEAN by Sea Dean
Oil on 40" x 60" Deep Wrap Canvas
(photographed in a very bright room with light coming from right, so that side looks more washed out than in reality)

When I learned to paint I used a large easel, long handled brushes and moved back and forth constantly to gain a better view of the whole painting. Two things happened to change this: I became a daily painter (traditionally 8" x 10" paintings and smaller) and I got older and developed more aches and pains. So I started to sit at a desk and use a table easel. In retrospect, I realize that these changes brought about a marked difference in my painting style, smaller, tighter, more detailed and less painterly.

Recently I obtained a commission for a large painting 40" x 60". I love painting large and this was for an oil painting, so I was returning to my roots. For this painting I had to stand and move around because of the very size of it. I also needed to use long handled brushes so I could reach better.

Daily painting has been a great teacher for me because I have learned to paint fast. I used to fuss for weeks creating a painting, usually with many layers as I adjusted composition and detail. With daily painting you don't have time to fiddle because tomorrow you start a new painting. Some paintings still take longer, but when things go well I can now complete a perfectly good painting in a hour. That is the beauty of diligent practice. Of course, there is all the extra time for planning, prepping the canvas, varnishing, framing, packaging, marketing etc. but that goes faster if you do it in batches.

So, back to my big painting. What I discovered is that there isn't much difference in effort between painting large and painting small: You scale up the size and length of your brushes, buy bigger tubes of paint, stand rather than sit and use a bigger easel. I remember I had a terrible time training myself to use short handled brushes when I started to paint small and I'm now sure it was because it restricted my ability to express myself. Standing gives more freedom of movement and bolder strokes which gives your work a fresh and painterly feel.

If your paintings are getting tight and uninteresting it could be because your body is too stiff; this is what was happening when I was sitting to paint. Before your studio time, learn to relax. Here are some tips.

1. Have a hot shower.
2. Go for a walk or a run.
3. Do some yoga, even one round of "Sun Salutation" will help and that only takes a few minutes.
4. Put on some music and free dance.
5. Do some windmills with your arms, bend and stretch.
6. If you have room skip rope for 5 minutes.
7. If you're a gym junkie, have a session BEFORE you paint.
8. Put on your favorite dreamy music.
9. Meditate for 5 minutes. Louise Hay has some good audios to use.
10. When you paint, concentrate on using your whole arm and/or your whole body to paint, not just your fingers and wrist. Shake it out every now and then, get up and walk around, look into the distance, have a hot drink or a break. Whatever it takes to release the tension in your body.

I guarantee your painting will improve.