My big Achilles Heel is painting large, studio works. I have a short attention span, so the thought of working a long time on a single painting doesn’t come naturally to me. I’ve worked as large as 3’x5′, but this work is 20×22″. It’s based on “Dry Stream Bed“, which I posted last month. I continue to requests for larger works, so I’ve got to figure this out.
I’m trying to keep the feelings of spontaneity and freshness found in the original. What do you think? Is it done?

Coachella Valley Running Dry – Oil on Linen – 20×22

9 thoughts on “Is it done?

  1. I have the same issues Ed. The need and desire to paint some larger works. Wanting to keep them fresh but also to push it a bit further than just the two hour sketch.
    I talked about that in my last post on how long did it take to paint that, and in a few other posts.

    I think this one is done, but only you can tell if it accomplishes all that you want it to. How do you know when it is time to just leave it as it is?

    It is hard for many of us to balance the desire to keep going with the desire to keep it loose and spontaneous.

  2. I wonder if it’s even realistic to try and express the same freshness in a larger work in the studio, vs plein air? I’ll check your blog posts on this, Frank. Thanks!\

  3. Hi Ed. This is a really interesting comparison. I like the sky and distant mountains in both. In the bigger one I like how there’s dancing in the tree limbs. In the smaller one, I like the greater value range and how you can really see the sunkissed tree branches. There’s more orange in the foreground, too. But, like Frank said, it depends on what *you* want. Thanks for posting these.

  4. Nice one, Ed. I had to flip back and forth between the smaller piece and the new one to see the changes – good work in both! I like the way you lightened the distant hills and some of the shadows under the trees. Sign it!

  5. Ed,
    I did like the simplicity, the brighter color and the composition of the stream bed in the small plein-air piece. The sideway “H” shape of the stream bed blocks seems to block the flow, unlike your original. I don’t mean to be a critic, but you asked.

    I took a workshop from William Scott Jennings and two things I remember that apply here.
    Work up, to being able to paint big. Big paintings helped his career grow.
    Using knife and brush on an alternating basis keeps the painting loose.


  6. mike rooney says:

    i have the same problem ed. i like to paint small but people want some bigger ones too. i want it to stay loose and have to work very hard to do it. outside its no problem, but i dont think i’m very successful at that in the studio. using knives surely has helped as well as keeping the time to paint it around 2-3 hrs no matter how big it is. BTW i love this one you did. its loose like you wanted.

  7. The question you asked is one of the most difficult because it is very subjective to say “I am done”. So my answer can only be “if I was painting it…” (that was for the “disclaimer”.

    If I was painting it, I would glaze the shadow area in the foreground to get deeper colored shadows on the earth and plants and let the rest of the painting recede. Also, looking back and forth between the field painting and the studio one, I prefer the way the dark shape in the foreground in the field painting projects an almost triangular shadow. The shadow also goes further on the left, leading the eye and consistent with the 2 long shadows in the background. But, as I say, this is a matter of taste and opinion. Benoit

  8. William R. Moore says:

    IMHO I think one of the problems we have is relative scale. ie, I think that if we increase the size of the format. We should also increase proportionately the palette size, amounts of paint, brush size, and apply paint in a ratio
    according to the increase of the new format.

    I also think that the plein aire should be used as a comp for the enlargement staying very close to the composition of the original. ie, using it as if it is actually part of the process and the beginning of the large painting.

    IMHO I feel that in your larger painting, you got away from the strong composition and concept of the original. The tree masses appear fractured as if they weren’t massed together with a large enough brush. The Paint appears to have been applied sparingly. Also in the original the trees appear to be the focus because they dominate in one mass size and value. The enlargement compositionally appears to have lost the strong value pattern of the original. The enlargement looks as if you scaled back instead of up on color Chroma/intensity. The original had a nice circle composition that you lost in the enlargement.

    Solution to your question IMHO is to remember to stay with your original game plan, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Remember to think big and don’t forget to enlarge the SCALE of everything involved in the process. Study the original with the attention that you gave the scene and then let go and paint the enlargement. You probably painted intuitive with the original arriving at the strong composition; maybe you thought to much about parts and not the whole while painting the enlargement.

    Ed, I do enjoy your site and work. Thanks, Will

  9. Ed,
    Perhaps you recall that I commented on your first version — loved it. I like the larger one, but I don’t love it. I think you got tentative (and used brushes that are too small) when you did this one. The value changes are not as dramatic, the brushstrokes are too many (too small?), the movement isn’t there. I’d like to see you approach the larger painting with the same excitement (attitude is everything, right?) that you have for your smaller paintings, a BIG brush, and an abundance of confidence. Be bold! Personally, I’m happier with a dramatic (bold, exciting, confident) painting than with a safe (but tentatively competent) painting. I like your paintings, and I’d love to see you break through this size barrier in a BIG way (instead of in a small, safe way). Keep up the good work!

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