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In BRAC Show, Bigger Is Better

“Bigger Is Better” is the name of the current show in the main gallery at the Blue Ridge Arts Center in Seneca. It opened Nov. 19 and will run through Dec. 18.

Seventeen artists were invited to submit large pieces. The smallest is 24 by 36 inches, the largest 48 by 72 inches. Seven Anderson Artists Guild members are part of the show: Larry Bennett, Debbie Bzdyl, Brenda McLean, Donna O’Hara, Yvonne Park, Lori Solymosi, and Sue West.

Below are reflections from some of these members on the particular challenges of working on a large scale.

Brenda McLean’s Autumn Market (pastel, 36x36):

“The challenge for me in working large is that what appears loose and painterly up close seems too tight when viewed from a distance. And large paintings should be viewed from a distance! I first completed a much smaller pastel as a study and was satisfied with its expressiveness. In translating the composition and underpainting, I was still on the right track. But getting to the final stages was a real challenge. The next time I paint this large, I will use much bigger brushes and turn the music up much louder!”

Lori Solymosi’s Rusty (mixed media, 36x36):

Rusty is my most recent work using the mixed media technique of oil over acrylic and other mediums. I have been striving for a richness in color and depth that only oil seems to give me. I am very comfortable and prefer painting large. I can use my entire arm from my shoulder down; I am a quite physical painter.

Rusty began with an underpainting of acrylic and alcohol inks as well as spray paint and mark-making tools. I loved the abstract quality, however wanted to follow through with the tiger image. I had done two smaller versions of the tiger theme which sold, and I wanted to go bigger. When I started to free draw on the background, it was too busy to see my lines. I decided to draw the tiger on paper, place it on top of the canvas and do a reverse transfer with graphite. I still wasn’t happy with the proportions so I gridded my reference photo and the canvas and ended up doing a square-by-square rendering. I used dimensional paint by Sennelier to create texture and recently discovered Solid Markers by Sakura which go on like oil pastels and blew dry in about 5 minutes. I also used a faux rust technique as well as a combination of fluid and heavy body acrylics.

“Once everything was dry and sealed, I began my transparent oils followed by opaque oils and allowed this to completely dry before varnishing. This is a laborious process which I did over a four- to six-week period. I’ve done about 8 paintings like this thus far and am learning along the way. It is important to remember once you go to oil, you can’t go back.”

Sue West’s Sunny Boys (acrylic, 30x40):

“The most challenging aspect for me when painting large is getting the proportions right. In my painting Sunny Boys, the pears were originally lemons in my thumbnail sketch. When I began painting, they looked like enlarged tennis balls! I decided to change them into pears because I could play around more with their form. Also, when painting large it is so important to step way back from your work and see what is working and what is not.”

Yvonne Park’s Pennsylvania Morning (oil, 30x40):

“This is my biggest painting so far. I usually paint 9 x 12 or 11 x 14, so this scared me a little. The hardest part was mixing the colors to get the oranges, the pinks and the yellow morning glow and then mixing enough of those colors. I usually mix my colors right on the canvas with my brush as I paint, but for this, I had to mix piles of paint ahead of time on my palette. I really misjudged how much paint I would need to cover a canvas this large, so I spent a lot of time trying to create those same colors. For me, this is a huge painting, but I think mine may have been the smallest one in the show. I also paint in a small bedroom, and this canvas barely fit on my easel. I bought an extra canvas in case I screwed this one up, so I'll eventually get another one painted. It was fun.”

Debbie Bzdyl’s Autumn (mixed media, 30x40):

“There was no real challenge for me as far as size goes because I usually create paintings this large or larger. My challenge for this piece was more in the color palette and incorporating metallic paints and metallic foil to give it added warmth and glow.”

For more information about the show, visit


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