Painting in Unknown Seas

1502 Cartoon color

The worst sin is to be boring. This is a rule I live by.

So when I was given a commission for a very large, very modern painting, the main challenge is this: how to do a huge modern painting without it being boring?

Don’t get me wrong, not every modern painting is boring. But some definitely are. If you do a google image search of modern paintings, it gets boring pretty fast.

And this thing is really big. They want three panels side by side, each three feet square. That totals twenty-seven square feet of painting. Intimidating!

But I never take “in over your head” as an answer. The thing I like most about painting is that it always takes me in new directions. Not that I’m all that innovative. It’s mostly ignorance of proper technique plus hubris that makes me think I can represent whatever I imagine. Yeah, I am basically a caricature of the Despicable Modern Artist. So what?

The point is, the painting can be whatever it wants,  as long as its not boring.

Where to start? Not with paints, that’s for sure. This is uncharted territory, we’d best set out with pencils.


Initial Sketches for my painting. The final canvases will be three feet by nine feet.


Too flowery!

The underhand spiral is a design that made it into the final.

I did more sketches and color compositions, looking for something interesting to fill up these canvases with. Eventually I got some vague idea of what I was doing.

1502 Cartoon color

Pictured: some vague idea of what I was doing.

But the thought still haunted me: Is it boring?

I set out, ignoring the lingering doubt that all voyagers must face. A canvas is a lot like a ship. And I sailed in a direction, no doubt. So far, that direction is texture. Texture isn’t boring. Many painters layer textures under a painting, and this gives depth to a piece. Van Gogh and Lois Clarke are heavy influences for this project.

unboring painting by Lois Clarke

A painting by Lois Clarke. You can see some similarities between mine and hers even in these beginning stages.



Textured underpainting. I don’t know how much of this will end up in the final painting.



I’m trying to elevate the circle shapes with modeling paste. Will it stay on the canvas? We’ll see!


Happy Face

Happy faces make everything unboring!

So now I message you from the sea. There is a long way to go before I reach land, and the stars are unfamiliar. I don’t, strictly speaking, know where I’m going, but I hope it is not boring when I get there.

Happy Sailing.


Edited by Tay