The story, the challenges, the process, and finally the prints of Big Red.
Here is the story of “Big Red” 80″x138.” This painting was an exciting and challenging project from start to finish. As the largest stretched painting I have completed to-date this piece posed some unique challenges. This piece was commissioned by Latela Curatorial, for a private condo building in Arlington, Virginia.
The first challenge was the time frame, this custom commission was rushed. A normal size commission timeline is between three and five months. This commission was just inside of a three month timeline. The challenges of a piece this size in a short period of time exacerbated some of the material struggles I faced.
Before I get into the nitty gritty of what it took to get this painting completed in under three months I wanted to show you the triptych I made from this piece. For the first time EVER! I turned one of my paintings into a triptych. Check it out and shop the three prints by clicking the links below.
Back to the original. The first challenge was that this painting wouldn’t fit through the door of my studio, so I had to rent a larger garage space before I even began to ensure I could get it out the door for delivery.
The second challenge with Big Red was that canvas manufacturers do not manufacture a roll of canvas larger than 80″. You might be thinking, “Christine, the painting was 80″ why did you need a roll of canvas larger than that?” I actually needed a roll of canvas that was a minimum of 96″ wide by ideally 20 yards long so that I could wrap it around the stretcher bars and have enough excess to staple the canvas to the back of the bars. After spending three days calling canvas manufacturers around the country, no one had a roll of canvas larger that 80 inches in stock. To meet my deadline, I had to rush ship a 120″x 20 yard canvas to the United States from overseas.
I cut the canvas and spent a few hours ironing out the deep creases. This canvas was shipped folded, not rolled – the grooves were deep. Because canvas is such a thick material deep wrinkles do not simply melt away as the paint gets applied to the piece. Ironing this piece was essential to ensuring no wrinkles were permanent.
The third challenge with Big Red was that no manufacturer makes stretcher bars this large. Most stretcher bar companies make bars up to 80″, however 80″ was my short side. I also needed bars 138″. That challenge meant there was no option but to make my stretcher bars from scratch. I am not a woodworker and joining wood wasn’t really option for me either in my time frame. So I went to home depot, picked out the straightest pieces of wood I could find. I measured, made diagrams, did math – double, tripple, and quadruple checking myself to make sure I got my stretcher bars correct the first time.
With my stretcher bars assembled, sanded and the perfect size my piece was ready to stretch. Pulling the canvas tight was a two-man job. I couldn’t have assembled or stretched this piece on my own. I required a part-time studio assistant to help with with some of the heavy lifting.
The final challenge with Big Red for me was the color palette. If you’ve been following me for a while you know that red is not my color. I find this color really hard to work with. Its brutish. It dominates. It can go to ugly places quickly. I had to work hard to stay on the agreed upon palette.
After waiting for my canvas and paint supplies to arrive I had a month and a half to paint this painting. My works are very layered with about 20 unique layers the need to dry in between each painting session, this was a challenging assignment and one that took a lot of time coordination.
When the painting was finally finished and approved by the client, I was able to varnish and deliver it. To see video footage of this whole process – start to finish – check out this Instagram Reel.
I was incredibly honored to have been given the opportunity to make this custom piece. I was a challenge every step of the way, but one I wouldn’t trade for the world. I hope to do more large works of this scale again and again in the future! Thanks for following this journey, comment with any questions you have about this piece and I will respond asap.
If you’d like to purchase a print of “Big Red” you can choose a canvas print, a framed canvas print, a tryptic, a framed print, a recessed framed print, or just a simple paper print. Shop small and shop Big Red!