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the very large triptych, part 6 ~ new studio & first strokes

by | Apr 19, 2024 | Uncategorized

The most dreaded phase of this whole Very Large Triptych project involved zero skill or creativity. It required planning, patience, hefting and heaving. That dreaded phase? Swapping my living room with my studio.

The living room of artist Dawn Chandler's Santa Fe home.

Why bother?

I needed to be able to step away from the canvases while painting so that I could take in the full panorama. My studio just didn’t have enough space. Despite the utter pain-in-the-assedness of reconfiguring my entire home — hauling trunks, taborets, lamps, tables, shelves, chairs, bins of paints, and books and books and books and books — it was essential that I do so. That process began in late July.

In August two huge new easels arrived [“some assembly required” READ: complete assembly required] as well as a shipment of 8′ x 4′ sheets of cardboard for the floor.

Three large easels await the canvases for Dawn Chandler's Very Large Triptych New Mexico landscape painting.

Easels? Why not just hang the canvases on the wall?
Because I wanted to be able to turn away the paintings easily [“easel-y” ? ]. Much as stepping back from the canvases is important, so is taking breaks from looking at them. Also, I didn’t want anyone else to see the Very Large Triptych while I was working on it. Although I’m confident in my painting abilities, with such a new, huge and challenging project, the slightest eyebrow raise from the wrong person might cause me to second guess myself, and I wasn’t taking any chances.

Looking down from above into artist Dawn Chandler's living room as she prepares to begin her Very Large Triptych New Mexico landscape painting.

A few days later the canvases arrived. WOW! They were gorgeous!

A blank canvas can be damned intimidating, and here I had three of the largest, most pristine and expensive canvases I’d ever painted on. That blindingly white, intimidating pristine surface had to go. I grabbed a large piece of graphite and wrote in huge sweeping cursive across the canvases statements of affirmation: “I am painting a beautiful New Mexico landscape!” “Joy!” “This painting radiates peace!” It may sound hokey, even — GASP!WOO-WOO, but why the hell not? I wanted the very foundation of this painting to be rooted in positivity.

Next I sketched in the basic shapes of the landscape: foreground trees, mountains, clouds overhead.

Finally, I was ready to begin painting the Very Large Triptych.

Well… no — not quite. First I needed to wake-up my Muse. I pulled out my watercolors and cut several panels of Multimedia Artboard., then put on my headphones. Cued up was a very special audiobook that I knew would speak directly to my Muse: The Creative Act, written and read by Rick Rubin [O Wise One]. For me, Rick’s sonorous Buddha-like voice and wholly inspiring message is like an IV drip of motivation. During those first couple weeks that I worked on the Very Large Triptych, I warmed up with watercolors and the voice of O Wise One.

The Creative Act by Rick Rubin, a cuppa tea and studio tools in Dawn Chandler's studio.

Warm-up complete, now it was time to get down and dirty with my oil paints. Large brushes were needed, and knew just where to find them. I opened a drawer in my taboret, and there they were — my huge old brushes from grad school. Pride rushed over me as I admired how well kept they were; it had been decades since I last used them.

An array of artist Dawn Chandler's large oil painting brushes.

When it comes to painting traditional/representational landscape in oils, I more or less follow Kevin McPherson’s approach: Figure out your darkest darks, and block them in boldly and simply. The darkest darks were the foreground trees, so I started there. Fortunately, as I created the study panels in Phase Two, I had made detailed color notes and swatches, and referred to these now to figure out the foreground colors:

Artist Dawn Chandler's oil painting color swatches from her oil painting studies for her Very Large Triptych New Mexico landscape painting.
Mixing color and laying in the darkest darks of the foreground of artist Dawn Chandler's Very Large Triptych New Mexico landscape painting.

Next came the mountains.

In Dawn Chandler's Santa Fe studio, mixing the colors of distant New Mexico mountains.

Because my painting style is quite loose, I don’t usually get too caught up in getting the silhouette of a mountain range exact. But, since I was commissioned to paint a specific view, I felt it important to depict the lay of the mountains as accurately as possible — hence the numbering of the peaks:

Details of artist Dawn Chandler's Very Large Triptych New Mexico landscape painting. Here, figuring out the exact mountain peaks of the distant ridgeline.
Details of artist Dawn Chandler's Very Large Triptych New Mexico landscape painting. Here, figuring out the exact mountain peaks of the distant ridgeline.
Santa Fe artist Dawn Chandler's Very Large Triptych New Mexico landscape painting with the initial foreground and mountain colors painted.

Now to begin the sky.


This is part six of a several part series:

the very large triptych, part one ~ the request
the very large triptych, part two ~ the proposal
the very large triptych, part three ~ discovering the landscape
the very large triptych, part four ~ experiencing sky
the very large triptych, part five ~ painting the studies
the very large triptych, part six ~ new studio & first strokes
the very large triptych, part seven ~ the big reveal


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Stay safe. Be kind. Notice what you notice.

~ Dawn Chandler
Painting, writing, photographing, hiking, noticing and breathing deeply in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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