Hello,

I like to sketch and paint. I like to focus on details. I tend to put a lot of attention on details and I like to add details to a painting etc. The problem is that I use only A5 sized sketchbook, because I don't like to spend multiple hours painting, and I want to get my work done at one sitting. For some reason I don't like A4 format and bigger formats intimidate me. Common logic tells me that choosing larger canvas/paper will let me make a more detailed painting but for some reason I am scared to ruin new big canvas.

Basically, what I need is encouragement or advice on whether to try out a canvas or a big paper. Did anyone of you feel your painting skills improved when you chose a bigger canvas? And in general what is your preference when it comes to size of a sketchbook or a canvas?

Thank you in advance,

All the best :)

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Hi Kristina, I have had the same problem I have found bigger than A4 to be intimidating, however I recently did a rose tutorial that was A3 and though it was an uncomfortable size at the beginning, it was great to push through it, honestly my art tutor painted her rose twice the size of mine but A3 I think is plenty big enough and still capture all the details, however one day I would love to try the challenge of an even bigger piece. All the best

All new artists go through this, I still struggle with it sometimes. If you worry too much about details and "ruining" a canvas you will not be able to let go to get better as an artist. Getting better requires practice. If you are just going to do practice pieces; don't use a canvas. Also, the lesson I learned is to let go of the worry of details. Details are for photographs where everything is in focus and that is not art; that is just a "record" of a moment. A "copy" of that moment in time. Once you try to make you paintings look more painterly and less perfect you will set your creativity free. Furthermore; the best paintings I have seen are where the subject is in focus; or what the artist wants to you look at; or the subject of what the artist is trying to communicate and the rest of the painting is out of focus a bit and more muted. Think about it; when you look at a beautiful scene; you eyes see something about it that is beautiful and look at that spot and everything else is out of focus. Too much detail can make a painting too busy and the viewer looks away because it is too tiring to look at everything; and no one thing is more interesting than the rest. Paintings are a language a way to tell a story that is universal in the way it makes others feel. You want to transport the viewer to that spot (real or imagined) you saw (or felt) that made you feel something; to do that is to have one main subject matter in the painting. Don't worry so much about the details. Worry more about color; if you must fuss about something. Have you studied much about color theory? It is fascinating; and a bit of magic. To help with your fear; you can plan out what you want to paint on paper first. I do that many times; and then take a picture of it and play around with it a bit in Photoshop. But that is up to you. If your style requires a degree of details you may be happier doing this and planning out your composition and details in advance; just know that you get to the canvas your "creation" may change and take on a life of its own. Let it :). If you like to get it all done in one setting; you may pull your hair out with trying to paint larger on canvas. I am still working on a mixed media painting I started in November; but in all fairness it is quiet large 48x60 inches and I am using gold and silver leaf. Have you tried paint markers? They may give you a freedom you might enjoy them. One more thing; it really is very very difficult to ruin a larger canvas. If you are not happy with what you just painted you can gesso over it and start over; you can also gesso over any mistakes you don't like and just fix that area; or you may decide that what you thought was a mistake just added something wonderful to your art. Paint; create for you. Paint what you would hang on your wall. Don't worry about anything else. Paint what you think is beautiful and what you would be proud to own.

Wow! Awesome advice Pandalana! Thanks, I know that while I love details I also want to loosen up a bit, sometimes actually a lot. And you're absolutely right about colour, same with contrast if your contrast levels are right it doesn't matter whether the colours are accurate it will still look stunning. Thanks, all the best

wow, great advice, people. i'm learning from others all the time!

For bigger pieces you can use the grid method. You can google "the grid method" to look into more of a visual tutorial/videos as to what I'm talking about. I don't usually use bigger canvases, but I have done a couple of simple murals on a wall inside other people's houses. You can't throw away walls if you mess up! Haha! 

The first thing I do is to sketch out what I want on a regular 8x11. I just use a #2 pencil. When I'm finally done with the sketch, or at least have a really good idea as what I'm doing, then I draw a grid over it. There has been times when I don't want to "mess up" the original sketch so I get tracing paper and draw the grid on the tracing paper while it's on top of the sketch. I have also took my sketch to a copier and just make a few copies of it and draw the grid on the copy.  After that, I take the size of my sketch and the size of how much of the wall I want to use (in your case the canvas) then figure out how big I want my individual boxes I want it to be.I try to keep it simple. I don't care for too much math. Normally I can get away with a 1 x 1" inch box on my sketch book equals to a 2 x 2" inch  or even a 5 x 5" inch on the wall! Then this big scary area isn't so scary anymore. I get the basic shapes down first the details don't come until I fully complete the basic shapes. I make sure I'm using as much of the space as I want. I sketch lightly because I know I am going to make a lot of mistakes. I also found that white erasers are a lot better on white walls than those pink ones you use at school. The pink ones leave a pink mark believe it or not.  I stop often and walk across the room away from the piece to get a better look. For bigger canvases you have to walk away from it to see the whole picture, you only get close to study the detail. If you want to do a bigger piece in great detail, it's going to take a while, unless your Jackson Pollock. I have never done a mural in one sitting. I stand, I kneel, I squat. I get on top of furniture. I don't sit. The bigger the canvas the more you have to move around. I would say the fastest that I did something was about 6 hours. I think I did an area that was about 4 ft x 3 ft. It is hard to say how long I did it because I had to my 9-5 job and then come over to their house for a few hours until they needed to go to bed. Then I would get up for the 9-5 job, stop by their house and work until it was bedtime. I would suggest for you to just go to the art/craft store and get the biggest pad of sketch paper you can find. I've seen 18" x 24" inches sketch pads. It's best to use those and get comfortable in a bigger size before you move on to a canvas. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIMgmBaxDRk
This is a good video as to what I'm talking about. The lady, of course, does it differently than what I talked about and uses a whole lot more boxes than I do but I'm not as detailed as her. 

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