It’s not often that I get to paint on large canvases. To be honest it’s a lot easier to stick to a size that fits on the average table, or can actually rest on my easel. Also with the pace I move at when painting, I’d probably accomplish one or two paintings a year.
However, every once in a while I get a commission request that’s big. Stupidly big. We’re talking on the scale of ‘Can I even fit the canvas in my flat?’ big.
Well now you have that visualisation in your head, multiply it by three. It’s known as a triptych (yes I had to look up how it was spelt), and in this instance it would be my largest painting to date.
The couple that asked for this piece wanted something nautical themed, possibly involving a whale to emphasise the scale of the piece. They’d been looking for something to fill their massive empty wall space for a while, and so now it was up to me to create a statement piece for their living room.
The first step with this project was to generate a sketch that everyone was happy with, and then also replicate that sketch across the whole three canvases. If you’ve read some of my other blog posts, you’ll know that I like to start off making a digital sketch, as I can move more quickly with changes.
I was able to create a few designs for the clients to see and visualise what their finished piece could look like. They selected an option and I got to work on transposing that to canvas. I had to be careful that the lines from one canvas to the next all aligned - with a level horizon in the image this was even more important.
Getting a fairly accurate sketch can be easier when the canvas is divided into chunks. Usually, I grid up the whole area and replicate the sketch within each small square. The greater the level of detail, the more squares in the grid.
A base layer of paint is the next step. I block out areas with colour to better visualise the significant blocks. As things progress, I will start to increase the level of detail I paint within those blocks. Eventually I will reach the precision I’m after.
The whole process can be quite time-consuming, and I often find myself losing motivation in one area and moving to another. For example, I might spend several hours painting the detail on the sea, but then decide to paint some grassy sections to mix things up. Staying motivated is key when working on such a large piece of artwork.
There is an added level of difficulty with a triptych because there are three separate canvases, all with the same type of sections - sea, sky, land etc. If I don’t complete an entire section across all canvases in one sitting, then I have to produce the exact same colours and shades the next time around.
In-coming mention of colour blindness…I suck at matching colours.
I had to improve for this project, and I also had to get used to the idea of completing larger sections in one go, to avoid the number of times I would have to do this. What helped was the randomness of nature. Clouds in the sky and water ripples of the sea are all pretty random, and so I could use that to my advantage when I couldn’t quite get the colours just right.
In the end, I was able to complete all three canvases to the standard that I wanted. When you take a step back or view it from across the room, everything comes together into a single, coherent work of art. The whole thing spans about 3 metres in width, and just over a metre in height. Like I said - big.
Joseph Cashmore - ART JC
25th Feb 2023
2nd Jan 2023
13th Dec 2022
20th Nov 2022