I’ve always wanted to ‘go bigger’ with my drawings and paintings and to try painting on a large canvas. So much so that, when Michael’s had a sale last year on large canvases, I brought one home and at first, set it up on my easel for a few weeks, then in the back of the closet… Yep. Fear with a capital ‘F’ had moved in from the time that canvas sat on my easel. It was overwhelming to imagine where to start, how to start painting on a blank canvas of that size. So, as with all things overwhelming and new with a high possibility of failure, it took a while to build up the courage to start doing the work involved in beginning to create. I finally decided that I needed to add color to my Living room wall since it was pretty much bare and I had been staring at it for the past 10 months. So my solution was to paint this canvas. Below, I share my process:

  1. Choose a Canvas.

I like the Level 3 Heavy Duty Canvas from Michaels with the thicker 1.5” wide stretcher bars. I also chose a comfortable size for me as a first time canvas user (30 x 40”)

2. Sketch out the Design for the Canvas

I did a sketch or mock up of the Portrait I wanted to paint using Adobe Illustrator, but I could also have sketched on paper first. I used a reference image that had a lot of dramatic shadow and highlight areas for a more pensive mood to the piece.

Copyright (c) 2023 Simone Elum

3. Choose a Color Palette

Since I’m not a pro at blending acrylics yet, I went for a more graphic/ color-block kind of look. I choose two colors – pink and blue and expanded to 2 shades of pink and 3 shades of blue. I added white paint to lighten the pink and black to darken the blue. The original inspiration for this palette came from… my living room area rug from IKEA! I played around with the placement of these colors in Illustrator until I came up with something I really liked.

Copyright (c) 2023 Simone Elum

4. Choose Paints and Materials

I decided to use Liquitex Basics Acrylic in Ultramarine Blue, Primary Red, Yellow, Black and White. I got larger tubes because I knew I would need a lot of paint. I even got a 2nd tube of white (just in case, but I ended up not needing it).

Other materials I needed were:

  • Liquitex Flow Aid to keep the acrylic paint from drying out too soon on the palette.
  • Various sizes of Flat and Angled Flat brushes as well as a size 2 Round brush (for smaller details). The largest size was 1” but while painting, I realized I should have had a larger brush, maybe 2” or 3” to fill in the larger areas of color.
  • A Palette Knife to mix the paints
  • Plastic Container with a Layer of Wet Tissue (to keep paint from drying quickly) then Palette paper on top.
  • 2 Jars of Clean Water (1 to rinse brushes, 1 to add water to paint occasionally) and a Spray water bottle to lightly mist the paint to keep it wet.
  • An old wash rag to wipe brushes and Palette Knife clean
  • A Drop cloth to place below my easel so any spills would be taken care of (I’m in an apartment not my own studio so….can’t be too careful).

5. Transfer Sketch to Canvas.

So, I created a grid over my sketch and then lightly drew a grid to scale on the canvas. I filled in the sketch with a soft pencil onto the canvas using the grid as my guide. I would have loved to make it easier on myself and use a projector to project my sketch onto the canvas and draw it out but unfortunately, I didn’t have one (It’s on my list for next time 😊 ). Once I finished drawing the portrait, I lightly erased the grid lines as much as possible.

Copyright (c) 2023 Simone Elum

6. Start Painting

I mixed the first light color (Pink), added some Flow Aid to it and painted the pink areas first. Once that first layer dried, I painted another layer of the same color to make sure the paint was very opaque. I repeated this for each color, painting light blue, then Ultramarine blue, Indigo Blue, then the lightest pink (highlight) last. This process took a few days as it was a lot of area to paint and re-paint.

7. Finishing Touches

Once all the colors were layered to my satisfaction, I touched up any areas where different colors overlapped as well as any paint that went over the sides of the canvas.

Copyright (c) 2023 Simone Elum

8. Display the Painting

The last and final thing was to set my finished Painting on my table top leaned against the wall (since I can’t put nails in the wall – Apartment life ☹ )

Copyright (c) 2023 Simone Elum

All in all, I was nervous throughout most of the painting, trying not to drop my paintbrush (I have had some clumsy moments in the past) or paint outside of the lines of my sketch. I’m so used to doing paintings quickly with watercolor and also sitting to paint that it took some adjustment to stand for the entire time at the easel (I wore sneakers most of the time) and also apply multiple layers of paint to the same areas. But, it was a very freeing experience to paint that big, for the first time. I love the end result and it definitely adds a lot of color and impact to my Living room space now. I think I will do it again! How say you? Let me know in the comments 😊

All works are Copyright (c) 2023 Simone Elum. All rights reserved. Any illegal reproduction of artwork and photographs will result in immediate legal action.