This week I decided that I wanted to make some paintings. Largish acrylic on canvas paintings. I haven’t made any such paintings in a while. It was about a year ago in early 2020 that I painted on the last of my 18×24 inch canvases and it was probably a year before that when I painted my on my second to last 18×24 inch canvas. It’s been a while.

I went to the Dick Blick website to see how much it would cost to buy some stretched canvases. I decided on some 24×36 inch canvases and if I bought ten of them it would cost $156.60. I decided I wanted ten of them not only because they’re cheaper that way but because I thought I should paint all summer. An ambitious project of ten canvases. Of course I didn’t have $156.60 in the budget so I ended up not getting them. At least so far.

Instead of buying new canvases I decided to work with what I had. What I had was a couple of stretched canvases that have been lying about the place for years. I even had one canvas that had a drawing already on it with a completed digital color sketch on my computer. I looked at the date I finished the color sketch and it was January 24, 2001.

Why did I have a canvas sitting around for that long? Here is the story. Back in the 1990s my large paintings were painted with oil paint. By the early 2001 I was getting bored with them. Within a couple of years I’d change over to acrylic paint to switch things up but this was before then. As part of my process I was working on “The Juggler” painting. I drew a sketch, made a drawing, transferred that drawing over to a 26×40 inch canvas, and made a color sketch. Then I got bored with it.

I don’t think I left myself enough room for improvisation at the end of the painting as I do now with the acrylics. Instead I figured everything out down to the last detail. It was already finished in my mind and finishing it in reality seemed like too much of a chore. So I put it aside and worked on other stuff. Until now.

I decided rather than spend money I didn’t have on new canvases I’d start by working on that old one. It actually got me excited. The painting didn’t seem so boring 20 years later.

In recent years I’ve been working on big ink drawings rather than big paintings. I’ve done over 50 Big Ink drawing in the last few years so I know how long they’ll take me. About three days each. Eight hours a day. I’m used to that. But I had forgotten how much longer big paintings take. I’m on day four of painting now and today was a ten hour day. That’s a lot of effort.

My painting arm is even tired today. It didn’t get tired making the Big Ink drawings. I put paint on the canvas in a certain way and often that involves me raising my arm to shoulder love and then making an upward movement with the brush. Multiply that by a few thousand times. I’m feeling it after four days.

The painting consists of a single figure standing with a complex geometric pattern of colors behind him. The figure has on clothes with colorful patterns on them.

The first thing I painted was the black outline of the figure. That didn’t take so long. I was finished with that by lunchtime on Thursday. Then the rest of Thursday and Friday and Saturday were spent painting the colors in the background. If you want to do this kind of painting you’d better like the meditative qualities of painting flat colors on a canvas while controlling the direction of the brush strokes. I do like that but make no mistake. It’s hard work. It takes a lot of concentration but you also have to leave your mind behind and do the job.

It was Friday when I saw I was going to be in trouble with my paint. Since I have’t painted much in a few years I wasn’t sure if my paints were still in good shape or which ones I still had. It turns out that I didn’t have enough Cadmium Medium Yellow to finish the painting. I knew I was going to have to check Amazon rather than Dick Blick because Amazon could hopefully get it to me quickly. It turns out they could. I ordered a two ounce tube that they could deliver to me the next day. Sure enough it came on Saturday and I was good.

I’ve been painting this painting with Liquitex heavy body acrylics. That paint holds my brushstrokes and has a presence too it that I like better than flat smooth paint. I squeeze the paint from the tube into a small plastic cubby container and I hold the cubby in my left hand as I paint. Some of the cubbies already had paint in them but the paint got a little dense over time. I went out to the garage and saw I still had some acrylic medium and added that to the stiff paint. It softened it up, gave it a fuller body, and I was able to work with it. I haven’t used acrylic medium in years (and I think the bottle is at least 20 years old) so I’m glad it was still good and worked well.

It’s Sunday night as I write this and I spent ten hours today working on painting the colors in the figure. I’m tired. I haven’t put that much effort into a painting in years. Even the one I did last year was simpler that this one. I’m not sure if I could get ten of these done. I’d have to pace myself.

But I have to say that I like the way it’s coming out. I also get a strange feeling of nostalgia as I look at it. After all it’s a painting I’ve been living with in its unfinished state for 20 years. I have some work to do on it yet but that work will be the spontaneous part. The figure is going to have some brush strokes of color around it. I might figure them out first digitally on Procreate. I couldn’t do that 20 years ago.