Painting Big

August 01, 2011

My biggest painting ever. When we needed something casual and bullet-proof to help protect the fir floor at our beach house, I decided to tackle a hand-painted floorcloth. Jeune Bros. sewed up a heavy 8x14 canvas rug with a natural jute edging. It has two seams which are doubled over so it is actually reversible. I gessoed the flip side and may try a very different approach on it next summer. A surprising inexpensive solution.

It had to be simple. I had a simple soft striping with watercolour blending in mind. Not exactly Morris Louis but something striped, stained and kind of woven rug-like. To add a bit of interest, I used some green painters tape in curvy lines as a mask as I built up colour layers, and to protect the natural jute edging. I used regular leftover latex acrylic house paint, a bit of faux finishing glaze and lots of water. The final three coats were crystal clear polyeurothane that is water-based, little odor and a delight to use.

It was surprisingly hard work – and a lot of surface to cover! Since most of it was done flat out on the grass, there was a lot of bending and squatting. Big brushes to wield. It was sunny, a bit hot and I tended to work for a few hours pretty intensely until just pooped. Sometimes our resident deer Figgy and her twin fawns came by to watch.

The next time I will definately wet the whole thing down and stapled it out onto a flat surface, like my neighbour's tent platform. It is a bit wrinkly and buckled and might have been better stretched for a more consistent flatness. But generally the finished floorcloth is working out just fine. Colours are great, it is nice underfoot under the long fir table, and easy to sweep off. No fuss. Here are a few images to give you the idea.

Because it was 'just a rug' and not some potential masterpiece, it was easier to just go with flow, enjoy the accidental and keep it light. Having now overcome some trepidation about painting large canvases, I am pondering how to set up a space to go large here in my studio.

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