The challenges of a big, blank canvas.

This was first published March 22, 2017.  I updated this post at the end as the canvas has since transitioned into a floral.

“Unless you put yourself on the line and give it your best shot, you’ll never know what you could achieve.” ~ Paula Radcliffe, marathon world record holder from Great Britain.

 Daunting big blank canvas 30 x 60

Artists write about many trashed paintings on the road to their one successful painting. It can be quite disheartening and cause anyone to lose self-confidence in their capabilities when there are so many “wasted” paintings, not to mention the time and the supplies used for each one.

So I understand what it means to be putting “yourself on the line.”

Growth occurs when we are willing to accept challenges and be on that line.  Growth also happens when we accept that not everything needs to be perfect (that’s a tough one!) and that the process is more important than the end result (even tougher lesson!).

All winter, this 30 x 60 canvas has been waiting outside the art room. Too big for any of the easels I own, the canvas will be worked on propped up on the table in my art room.

For a few years, I have had something in mind for this canvas so last summer, I gave it a base coat of black acrylic paint thinking I would work on it over the winter.

Filling a canvas that size is daunting.

I was recently inspired by a photo I found of my oldest granddaughter at her dance show.

She is the subject to be painted on the canvas.

Initial measurements on 30 by 60 canvas

Big blank canvas disappears...

As I have never worked on such a large surface, it was important to get the correct proportions right from the beginning. Out came the ruler followed by a sheet rock T square. Head, torso, legs, were all measured out before any paint was applied.

initial sketch on 30 by 60 blank canvas

My greatest concern is whether or not I have left too much blank space around her.  There should be room left for the stage at the bottom and that might change the look of the piece once it is added to the canvas.

The initial line work has been partly filled in with water soluble Stabilo and then gesso and roses very lightly sketched on one side. I will be testing different flowers and deciding the type and colours that will be most suitable before proceeding too far along.

The flowers on the sides on the canvas will work with a title I have in mind for painting.

underpainting for large canvas

2022 - Update with lessons learned.

Challenges with painting on a big blank canvas:

First, I did not have the correct set up for this large canvas. I developed a sore back as I painted across the table. Later, it was harder yet when I propped the canvas against a wall in order to try and finish the painting.



The last time I worked on the ballerina was in December 2019, last two photos above.

Eventually, I did buy an easel (2021) capable of holding this large canvas so that I could stand while painting. By that time, I had already decided that this whole ballerina was a do-over.  Have you seen my other do-oversIt is a thing with me.

Second, black as a background is just as problematic as white. It became even more of a problem when I tried to paint the background after I had started painting the ballerina. I should have added colour to the background first, and should have aimed for a more painterly approach.

As time moved along, the face became thick with acrylic paint. I felt that this painting was like the proverbial albatross around my neck. So I was fairly certain I would be painting over it.

In fact, only a few days after the original post was published, I began to have doubts whether I could actually follow through with this portrait. Read Doubts set in on big canvas painting - progress report 1 - No wild self-confidence here.

Coming soon - what I actually painted on this large 30 x 60 canvas. 

It only took:

-5 years,

-one move from Orleans to Rockland, Ontario,

-one house to another,

-one very long period of isolation during a pandemic,

-a broken leg,

-and the final hanging in the living room!

What challenges have you taken on, and learned from, in the last few years? I would love to read and learn from your experiences. Share with us in the reply box below.  Cheers!



10 Responses

    • Sort of…I am still not quite happy with it and before I publish it, I think I might rework one flower.

  • A splendid painting artwork, Louise! I think that the open space works well, as do the floral addition(s). Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Thanks Phil. The ballerina and the florals are long gone, painted over as I often do when I can’t bring a painting to a satisfactory end.

  • Like you Louise I am putting myself on the line with a large painting, remember those perfume bottles and when I asked for your input as to how I should deal with them? Well after 3 months I still haven’t gone back to it, I think the word is procrastination ????

    • Maybe it’s not procrastination. Everything in due time. I am starting to think that some paintings need to wait a bit for us to keep learning before we are ready to take them on. I am sure you have other projects to keep you busy in the meantime. I look forward to seeing all your projects my creative friend! Cheers!

  • Bravo to you Louise for going big with the canvas and thank you for sharing your vulnerabilities as an artist. You are not alone in those fear/doubts. I believe every time we conquer a fear on the canvas, it gives us courage to conquer something in life. 🙂 I can’t wait to see this finished.

    • Yes, very true that we grow as we face different challenges in our creative lives. I wonder if writers, and other types of artists have as many doubts. I think they do. It must just be the nature of the beast! Thanks for stopping by and letting me know you read my post! It means a lot to me.

    • Ahhh, Lisa…it’s all trial and error! So scared of messing it up, especially since I really want to hang it on the wall in my house. But, if I take it slowly, I will get there. Thanks for leaving a comment and for subscribing. I appreciate it so much!

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