Getting Bigger

Yesterday was a momentous one on my journey toward becoming an artist. I went art-shopping and for the first time, I purchased 11 x 15 inch paper. Later in the day, my husband also cut me a new — larger — board from Masonite. I’ll place it on my easel and use it for my watercolor paintings.

This surely sounds very insignificant, but for me, it’s a milestone.

When I first began learning to draw, I bought a little sketchbook — 5.5 x 8.5 inches. At the time, even that seemed rather big, but I had big dreams. I filled the pages with little drawings of little things — like leaves — repeating them over and over. At least six times, maybe a dozen times if I needed more practice.

Sketchbook Leaves (2)
My first little sketchbook is filled with little drawings.

A few weeks later, I became a bit more daring. I used a full page in my sketchbook for a single drawing. When the sketchbook was completely filled, I actually felt a sense of accomplishment, even though the little drawings were nothing more than practice exercises. I quickly went out and purchased another sketchbook, again choosing the 5.5 x 8.5 size.

As I drew my way through the second sketchbook, I did more and more “full page” pictures and gradually became more accustomed to working on these larger sketches. By the time I bought my third sketchbook, I was ready to move up to bigger — and hopefully better — things. I “graduated” to 9 x 12.

It was a difficult transition, and besides, carrying around a large sketchbook was awkward, plus it made me too conspicuous. The last thing I wanted was for anyone to see me “drawing” — a term I still used very loosely — and ask to see what I was sketching. Heavens forbid! I soon purchased a third small sketchbook. It was my “comfort zone” for art.

More and more, though, I found myself choosing the larger book for various projects as I worked my way through You Can Draw in 30 Days by Mark Kistler. My dreams now were getting bigger — maybe I really could learn to draw — so it was quite fitting that I should have more room to express those dreams.

As I learned more about art and various media, I picked up different art papers. Canson’s “Mix Media” for oil pastels. Strathmore cold-pressed watercolor paper. Toned gray paper for charcoals. Now, I was routinely buying these papers in 9 x 12 size. It was getting easier for me to visualize and complete a drawing of that size.

Then came that moment of realization. I wanted something bigger. Maybe my dreams are getting bigger once again. Maybe I’m feeling more excited about my art. Maybe I’m ready to make bigger messes.

The realization came as I was at my easel working on a watercolor project for the Watercolor Workshop at The Virtual Instructor. I’d made my preliminary sketch, and the painting was going well.

Framed Cityscape
I loved doing my first “cityscape” — leaning tower and all — but I started feeling cramped.


I began feeling a bit cramped, though. The project is an urban “cityscape” — the first I’ve ever done — and while it turned out better than I’d anticipated, I wanted a little more room to play, more room for those buildings soaring to the skies, more room for that city street, more room for a sidewalk where an early-morning stroller might go passing by.

Why not do a larger painting?

The question actually shook me. For some reason — maybe having to do with the fact that I don’t yet feel like I’m a real artist — it had never occurred to me to work on a larger scale. I suppose I was waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder and say, “All right, it’s time to try something new so go get yourself some bigger paper.”

No one was there to tap my shoulder, so I decided on my own that I was ready to get a little more adventurous. Yes, my dreams are growing. I want to paint larger landscape views. I’d love to do more cityscapes, too. I want to take my art to the next level, and I want to make it big enough for people to see.

I know, of course, that bigger doesn’t necessarily equate with better, but as I move along this pathway, I do see improvements. My drawings today are much better than they were a few months ago, and they’re easier for me to do, too. I’m feeling more confident when I pick up a paintbrush or grab an oil pastel stick. My charcoal and conte portraits actually resemble their subjects — most of the time, at least.

Sure, I still have my disasters, my colossal failures, my embarrassing mistakes. Sometimes I cringe at the results of a project — like that hideous blue monochromatic portrait I recently finished. Go ahead and laugh at it. It’s all right. Just don’t allow any small children to see it. It might scar them for life.

Art is a talent for many. For me, it’s a learning process. It doesn’t come naturally but only through patience, practice, hard work, determination, and lots of trial and error. But I’m stepping out and showing my art to others, and I’m giving myself a new freedom to express myself in larger ways.

My mistakes will be bigger now. I’m all right with that. The trade-off is that if I keep working at it, my successes will be bigger, too.

For what it’s worth, I do still keep a 5.5 x 8.5 sketchbook with me at all times. It fits neatly into my purse, and I like having it handy. At times, I carry around a 9 x 12 sketchbook, too. It’s all right now if someone wants to see what I’m drawing.

And one day soon I’ll be working on my first “big” picture. 11 x 15. It looks huge. Can I really draw and paint on such a grand scale? I’m sure going to give it a try.





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