Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Adjusting My Painting World for a Giant Commission - the story of three 10-foot paintings!

Roses in Hermann Park, 56 x 120, oil, L. Daniel © 2018
Commission for Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas
First of three 10-foot paintings to hang in new North Tower

Dear Blog-Friends, This is a story I wrote for Outdoor Painter last week. It's longer than most of my posts, but I share it in it's entirety because you to know what I have been up to since January. More to come on the process and, of course, on subsequent pieces! And thank you for your ongoing support!

The Project
Every now and then, an opportunity comes along that both excites and terrifies. I am in the middle of one of those right now… a commission project for three 10-foot paintings. When finished, these pieces will all hang together in the lobby of Houston Methodist Hospital's new North Tower expansion. It's an honor to be chosen, AND it also comes with high expectations. It’s a challenge that is taking me out of my comfort zone and growing me in new directions. That can be fun and scary!

Prepping my giant blank canvas with two extra coats of gesso.

The Logistics
At first, even the logistics of painting so large seemed insurmountable. A ten-foot canvas is not available at the local art store, is too wide to be supported by my easel, and won’t even fit in my personal studio. Knowing I would need some help, I began to research and ask around. In the end, Davis Gallery (my Austin gallerist and local frame-shop) is custom-building the canvases and delivering them to my front door. Easel guru, David Sorg, suggested two matching easels placed side by side to manage that size, and my double-Sorg arrangement works like a charm. Finally, my sweet husband helped me convert our living room/dining room into a giant studio space for the duration of the project (he also gets ongoing credit for being my greatest encourager)!

My dark neutral block-in on the double-Sorg easel set up.

The Execution
Once set up, I had to figure out how to execute on such a large scale. I typically paint in the Alla Prima method, often en plein air, and I love the freshness of working wet into wet. Even though sheer size would inhibit that process some, my instincts told me to stick with what I know. So I stocked up on paint, got larger brushes, and just got going. Everything took much more time than expected, but I stayed true to my process. I blocked-in the composition with a dark neutral, and began working dark to light. I stood back a lot, focused on large shapes, and slowly covered the canvas. I learned to be much more patient with developing a good foundation, and to overcome the drying time issues. Yes, I adapted, but my basic process served me well.

The easels move up and down in tandem so I didn’t have to stoop to paint the bottom. However, I did need a step stool for painting the top. 

The Finish Line
The first painting of the commission is now delivered and a being framed for installation, and I feel a great sense of accomplishment!! But I am not done… I have two more 10 foot canvases to go. By the time I am finished with all three, I will have been at it over nine months - January to September. (And the quoting process started 9 months before that!) When the paintings are all installed in that new hospital lobby, I will make my pilgrimage to Houston. That's when I’ll feel truly done, when I visit my big, 10-foot paintings altogether, “in situ"! 


Marilyn Flanegan said...

You absolutely amaze me, Laurel.
What a sense of depth you've created. So lovely and serene, exactly what I would wish to see in a hospital lobby!
I imagine it's quite a workout for you with these larger pieces, painting and stepping back (repeat)! And of course a sizable space too. I'm standing by to hear more of your experience with this ginormous commission.
So happy for you, Laurel.

belindadelpesco.com said...

This is incredible, and I'm bowing deeply in your direction for such courage! Your conviction and deliberation, and years of skills honed while painting in nature are visible right there, embedded in those gorgeous pigments. Bravo, my friend! I can't wait for the next update!

Sharon L. Graves said...

Absolutely gorgeous work Laurel and I can't imagine doing what you're doing. What an honor, such a huge job, so glad to see the finished product and it's stunning!

Unknown said...

Laurel - simply fantastic. Love seeing the smaller study juxtaposed with the finished product. Your willingness to share your “secrets” is what makes you such a terrific inspiration and teacher. Can’t wait to see the finished trio in person!