For my first paintings, I decided to push the Spectators series a little further. They were always about maximalism in their own way, but since I had moved the series to watercolor (and therefore applied the ethereal qualities to the images), I had been restricted to smaller images due to the size limitations of available paper. Now, for the watercolorists out there, before you tell me about rolls of watercolor paper (which I have a number of), I should note that I work almost exclusively on 300 lb. paper. I really get that painting WET. I need a paper at a weight simply too heavy to roll.
Fortunately, I had some old stock Arches 300 lb. cold-press at about 42”x 60”. This will do the trick, even if I have to use the back of some sheets. It’s not the 6’ canvases, but it’s more than enough to dramatically open the angle up to accommodate larger sets of figures.
There is a risk though. Whereas the Spectator’s series in acrylic is big, sloppy, goopy, and smeary, the watercolor Spectators are more intimate, which may work better for the ethereal quality it provides. Can too much ethereal lose its other-worldliness? Is the grand gesture of a large image too overwhelming for the delicate nuance of the medium? Or, could it just be that the interplay between pattern and the figurative becomes too lopsided for the home team? I believe that typically the larger image is more inclined to expose its flatness which could certainly destroy the uniqueness of any given area to the overall, flatter, whole.
Since I do not know how this will ultimately be displayed, it’s best to keep the paper presentable in the event that it’s unappealing or just too costly to have it matted and framed. Frankly, I couldn’t afford to have this framed anyway, but better to plan ahead just in case.
So I’ve taped off the outer edge of the work area. Taping only seems to work half of the time no matter how detailed you are. When paint seeps into the border area, there’s no option but the mat. Tape and voodoo sticks, then hope.
I mapped the sheet out into a set of 6 squares by 9 squares. Just like the subject matter of spectators and the relation of the singular to the whole, I’ll be working on this one small image at a time. I had originally thought to actually grid the sheet off with white crayon so that the grid remained prominent, but had a change of heart. I don’t know why I make every choice that I do, so there it is.
The next step was to plan my white areas out on the paper. I rarely do any pencil work these days and go straight in with paint or friskit, but due to the scale of this image, I decided to be a little more cautious and mark the areas out that will be preserved for the white paper in the final painting. Due to the subject matter (large assembled crowds), I should note that without gridding the surface off, this step, and most subsequent steps, would literally be impossible. Go geometry.