Go Big or Go Home…

I remember many, many years ago an artist telling me I painted too big and no one would want a huge painting in their house. At the time I painted 18×20 and larger. I was crushed because I respected this artist and really wanted to be like this artist. This artist never painted anything bigger than a 9×12, they sold a ton of paintings. I conformed, I shrunk my paintings down to 8×10 maximum 16×20. I sold several sets of 8x10s and 9x12s. My big paintings stayed and didn’t sell, so I stopped painting big. I was young and very impressionable (high school), I cared what others thought and I was told big paintings don’t sell. I believed them because at the time only my small paintings sold, however I missed painting big. I was the person who painted the Lion King (by herself) on one side of my parent’s garage. I did murals on a regular basis, I loved painting big and the detail, I could get was amazing. I wanted to be like the incredible mural painter in my hometown, Jim Finlan (an article about Jim in my hometown newspaper: https://www.dailypress.net/news/local-news/2018/08/mural-taking-shape-in-downtown-esky/).

When you paint big you draw people in and they become hypnotized by the painting. I never found people getting lost in my smaller paintings. However, I wanted to be practical and small paintings materials are cheaper, in theory they take less time. Where I grew up, it was a small town with a great arts community, however their pricing was insanely low. To compete you sold small and cheap. I remember one drawing I did was a pointillism Yoda on the back of my five subject notebook in high school. It took me a week to do, I ended up framing it (my mom told me no more notebook artwork after this piece). I remember I had $80 on it and the person was like that is steep, I told them I would be happy to get the framing costs out of it which was $55, I only made $5 profit on that drawing. I still kick myself that I sold that drawing for only the cost of framing, it was a cool drawing. Today that would be at least $260 plus because of the time it took, not to mention the cost of custom framing. I have numerous stories like this, I decided to go smaller, which made it cheaper to frame pieces (cheap Wal-Mart frames for the win) and have been doing it ever since. My grandmother was never a fan of my smaller paintings, she was a “go big or go home” type of person. In later years, I attributed it to her failing eye sight because I crammed such detail into a small painting, she couldn’t see it. However, looking back at it she liked big paintings. There were several wall paintings in her house, I might need to ask for one of those because I think they are on board and nailed to the wall. One of my favorite memories was her and I (I was in 3rd grade) painting a Bob Ross style mural on the side of my parent’s garage. We spent a week painting it and I loved every minute of it.

My grandma urged me last January to start painting bigger after showing her some of my pieces. She told me they were too detailed to be that small and would be incredible bigger. I told her I can barely finish what I have now, bigger paintings would take longer. I remember her saying they wouldn’t take that much longer because it would be easier to see, and easier to paint. I agreed she wasn’t wrong, but I had a ton of small canvas I bought on sale, I had to use that first. My grandma passed in June, I admit I took her death very hard, I didn’t paint for almost 4 months, my excuse was I didn’t have space. I really didn’t want to do it because it reminded me of her way too much. She was the person who taught me how to paint, she was the one who always looked over every piece I completed before I signed it. My critic was gone and I didn’t quite know how I was going to trust my judgement or instincts a piece was finished. In September, I finished the first painting without grandma’s approval. I let it sit for almost 3 weeks before I signed it, my daughter told me to sign it, so I was slowly getting back into my painting groove. Back in November my parents discovered my canvas stash from high school. I am still confused on how I had so much big canvas and I am quite sure grandma had a hand in this. It truly was like Christmas with the vast quantity of canvas that was sent. It was all 16×20, 18×24 and 20×24, I admit I had started to get the itch to paint bigger after my Forsyth Park Painting and after talking with my grandma in January, it takes a lot of room to paint that large. My dogs have a tendency to fight under my easel when it is set up, which leads to pieces falling off the easel, damaging pieces and making a mess (all have happened). Another reason I paint small is because I can sit on my couch with my blankets and paint. I like comfort when I paint, a glass of wine and to unwind, small paintings allow me to do that. I finally went through in December and set up a work area, with my paints and all my newly acquired canvas. I was finally ready to start painting again and maybe some larger pieces.

Painting of the Green-Meldrim House (8×10) – the first painting I completed after grandma’s passing.

My style has evolved over the years, I was a very photo-realistic painter. Now I am still photo-realistic but with a paint by number style (it is the easiest way to explain it) I can get the colors brighter and add an insane amount of detail. I love it, it also transfers nicely to large pieces (even though they take a lot of time). I was accepted into a local gallery here back in June (right before my grandma passed). I felt like all my hard work of changing my style paid off. The gallery surprisingly took many of my larger pieces, I was excited and a tad perplexed because I was told big pieces don’t sell. I have even sold a couple of pieces, I have finally found my groove. Yesterday, I was talking to the owner of the gallery I am in and she told me, she wanted me to paint bigger. The feedback, she has received from people is they want my pieces bigger, I was excited (terrified but excited). In a way I felt vindicated, people want big! People want statement pieces, they want the bright colors to draw them in, they want to get lost in a painting. I am motivated again and started looking over pieces that have been sitting, unfinished especially one of the Riverfront. The piece needs to be bigger, there is too much detail crammed into a small area. I originally wanted it to be 14×48 but I couldn’t get the size correct so I shrunk it down, it doesn’t work, every change I have done to it, it hasn’t worked it was meant to be bigger. I guess I need to start stretching canvas again so I can get my sizes I want or going to boards. Large canvas pre-stretched is crazy expensive, I am liking the boards more and more after pricing them this morning. It also gives me a reason to go to Home Depot, a place my husband hates with all his being. I do have some 24×24 boards that were purchased by mistake for Gingerbread. I am thinking they would make some really cool pieces. I am excited again, I am excited to be painting and to be painting big, I can’t help but think my grandma had a part in this.

Me and Grandma in January 2020 – I love this photo so much!

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