Large-scale paintings by Laurel Daniel
Here I’m prepping the custom-built, 10-foot canvas with two extra coats of gesso for the first of three large-scale paintings.

By Laurel Daniel

The Project
Every now and then, an opportunity comes along that both excites and terrifies. I am in the middle of one of those right now . . . a commission project for three 10-foot paintings. When finished, these pieces will all hang together in the lobby of Houston Methodist Hospital’s new North Tower expansion. It’s an honor to be chosen, and it also comes with high expectations. It’s a challenge that is taking me out of my comfort zone and growing me in new directions. That can be fun and scary!

Large-scale paintings by Laurel Daniel
The Block-In: This is my standard process for starting any painting. I like to get the composition and values established before diving in with color.

The Logistics
At first, even the logistics of painting so large seemed insurmountable. A 10-foot canvas is not available at the local art store, is too wide to be supported by my easel, and won’t even fit in my personal studio. Knowing I would need some help, I began to research and ask around. In the end, Davis Gallery (my Austin gallerist and local frame-shop) is custom-building the canvases and delivering them to my front door. Easel guru David Sorg suggested two matching easels placed side by side to handle the width issue, and my resulting double-Sorg arrangement works like a charm. Finally, my sweet husband helped me convert our living room/dining room into a studio space for the duration of the project (he also gets ongoing credit for being my greatest encourager!)

Large-scale paintings by Laurel Daniel
The 10-foot wide canvas required two easels to manage it. The easels move up and down in tandem so I didn’t have to stoop to paint the bottom. I did need a step stool for painting the top.

The Execution
Once set up, I had to figure out how to execute a painting on such a large scale. I typically paint in the Alla Prima method, often en plein air, and I love the freshness of working wet into wet. Even though sheer size would inhibit that process some, my instincts told me to stick with what I know. So I stocked up on paint, got larger brushes, and just got going. Everything took much more time than expected, but I stayed true to my process. I blocked in the composition with a dark neutral, and began working dark to light. I stood back a lot, focused on large shapes, and slowly covered the canvas. I learned to be much more patient with developing a good foundation, and to overcome the drying time issues. Yes, I adapted, but my basic process served me well.

Large-scale paintings by Laurel Daniel
The finished piece: “Roses in Hermann Park,” 56 x 120 in., oil on canvas, L. Daniel © 2018

The Finish Line
The first painting of the commission is now delivered and being framed for installation, and I feel a great sense of accomplishment!! But I am not done . . . I have two more giant canvases to go. By the time I am finished with all three, I will have been at it for over nine months — January to September. (And the quoting process started nine months before that!) When the paintings are installed in the new hospital lobby, I will make my pilgrimage to Houston. That’s when I’ll feel truly done, when I visit my ten-foot paintings altogether, in situ!

In addition to painting large-scale commissions, Laurel Daniel is also known for her instructional painting video on Outdoor Painting Basics (preview it below):

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  1. Wonderful, Laurel… both the opportunity and the painting. So admire your passion, dedication, and hard work. Will always remember meeting you at the API session at Ghost Ranch. Knew that smart, refined lady was on her way to big things, and now 10′ canvases!

  2. Laurel, I am so happy to see that you are receiving the recognition that you so deserve. I respect your courage and vision to accept this “huge” challenge. I spent many hours in the Hermann Park rose garden ,a quiet place and beautiful place that smells heavenly.


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