Saltworkstudio Large Painting Class: 5 Clues, and Cool Painting Titles

Cythia Heimowitz' s hands on her painting

What’s a large painting for you? 12  by 12 inches?  6 feet by 6 feet?  A mural? Anything on canvas? 

 What’s a large series?  Two paintings? A hundred?
In Sunday’s Saltworkstudio Paint Large class, our goal was to clarify our intentions for a series and begin to paint on larger surfaces.   For the purposes making headway in a four-hour class, I suggest students bring half to full sheets of watercolor paper, or three identical canvases up to 30 inches on a side.
I won’t share the entire process of the class, but it did result in the stunning headway on painting series you can see in the slideshow below.  All paintings shown were done in class on Sunday, and they are very fine starts. Some students came in with well-developed ideas, and some came in “blank.”
 I had to figure out how to model and convey my own process when working on a large series of big surfaces.    We used some of the  ideas below as guidelines.
  1. A large painting is not a small painting “blown up.”  Start fresh.  “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.”  You are in a new, large, foriegn country.  Explore it.
  2. Composition is critical.  Plan a minimal, flexible composition format or idea.  It could be “Golden Mean” or “Diagonal.”  OR it could be quirkier: “Large X-Ray Animal in the Middle”  or “Floaty Fractal Bubble with Connectors” or “One Line High Horizon.”  Vary each painting in  your series, but stay within one compositional “meme.”
  3. Texture your surface first, then put on large swathes of color or paint BEFORE “starting” the painting.  Keep it very loose at first.   You’re getting hold of your surface, getting acquainted with it…developing a relationship.  The start is like a first date.
  4. You need big ideas for large paintings.  Work in your notebook. Catch the ideas and desires that hang at the periphery of your conciousness. We’re like Adam naming the animals of our imagination into existence… and some of them are very odd creatures! Don’t be afraid of titling your paintings right at the start.  You can always change them later.
  5. Remember, it’s only paint and canvas.  Sure, you might fail.  So what?

Enjoy the slideshow!  The Mythic News and Studio News are after the slides. Students, please leave some comments about your process and your series concepts and names.  I’m amazed by your work.

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Mythic News:  You can get great abstract painting titles from myths and legends.  I just bought the beautiful, witty book  American Indian Myths and Legends, selected and edited by Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz.  Here are some titles I’d love to use for abstract paintings: The Origin of Curing Ceremonies. The Well-Baked Man.  Blood Clot. Jicarilla Genesis. Emerging Into the Upper World.  Great Medicine Makes a Beautiful Country.  The Theft of Light.  A Trick of Moon.  And more.  At the end of his life, my father told me that my great-grandmother was Native American.  It was the skeleton in the closet and a family secret.   At last I had a context for my resonance with ancient art.  Is there a DNA for visual desire, the passions of the eyes?
Saltworkstudio News:  All my classes are full through March!  I’ll be posting the next Spontaneous Construction date and time in the new year.   

8 thoughts on “Saltworkstudio Large Painting Class: 5 Clues, and Cool Painting Titles

  1. Thanks for the nod in the opening sentence! 12″ x 12″ is big for me because I started with 4″ x 6″. I used to cut 9″ x 12″ paper into two 6″ x 9″s because the size intimidated me. Then I fell in love with 8″ x 8″s. And then a prospective venue said my work was “too small.” What did I do? Got out my 12″ x 12″ pad that someone had given me.

    Great painting.planning tips.


  2. Suzanne is a wonderful teacher and quickly takes you through a process of developing personal stories that emerge in your art. Even though the paintings are mostly abstract they contain personal symbolism and meaning. She also covers the topics of composition, color and contrast. I don’t know how it happens so fast! It’s a magical process.

    I started with the concept of suggesting a landscape but attempted to blur the boundaries between interior and exterior. Thinking about when your life is in turmoil how you have to put limits on what you can take in. How do you stay engaged in the world and also stay calm? There are times when that’s a difficult balance. My series is called ‘Looking In, Breathing Out”. Judy Olin


  3. What an amazing four hours. It feels like a dream, with each piece offering me so much to explore. I’ve always been intrigued but intimidated by the idea of abstract painting, and I’m so excited about what got opened up in Sunday’s workshop.
    Yes Suzanne is indeed coach, cheerleader and slave-driver.
    I began with an idea of inner and outer and images of archways and pinks & golds. I don’t feel finished with my pieces however I do feel like I have entered a new realm to play and explore with enough of a map to begin. The title for my series is ” Entryway”.


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