How a Large Detailed Watercolor is Slowly Painted - 22x30 NYC street scene

I remember the question I asked while sitting at my bedroom studio drafting table, many years ago: “What is taking so long?!”

Patient waiting for life to change in some significant way had gone on for years, and it just seemed my responsibilities never changed. New opportunities to learn and serve had arisen from time to time, yet I felt I fell back into doing the same old thing, over and over. Feed and water the animals, make meals, wash dishes, clean the house, load three wood fires, haul some more wood, weed the garden, mow the lawn or shovel snow. Repeat.

People actually told me I resembled Cinderella because my clothes and hands were often blackened with soot from cleaning wood ashes out of all the stoves.

An answer to my question came unexpectedly, in the form of another question.  

 “How long does it take to paint a big painting?”

Oh,” I thought, and suddenly understood perfectly. “So that is what is taking so long, huh?”

I had learned large detailed paintings tend to carry much more impact than a small piece. They also take much longer to execute! Did our Father have plans to make my life into a big painting? If so, I had to be even more patient and just go along for the ride...



I think of this question and the answer when I paint large pieces. There is lots of time to just think and Be when painting.

Here are a few additional analogies to Paintings and Life which I was reminded of, applied and re-experienced while painting A Sleeping Giant Awakes:

  • Everything worth having is worth waiting for.

  • Sacrifices are necessary – a seed must first die to live. I said “No” to some distractions, so I could paint with more focus.

  • Get a good foundation before starting to build, take time to plan.

  • Whatever area of a painting or your life you focus on and work at, will begin to improve and change.

  • Slow and steady wins the race – I tend to slow down toward the end of a piece anyway, just from exhaustion, and to take more care about small details. 
  • Rushing or working when tired can ruin the piece – mistakes are more easily made when you are not fully present.

  • Don't try to push it, or force it – let it happen naturally.

  • Keep the entire painting in mind, while working on one small aspect.

  • Variety of size, shape and color is good - keeps the eye moving, the viewer's mind interested – so mix it up. Keep'em guessing.

  • Ask for comments, opinions and counsel along the way.

  • Get ready for opposition to your idea. Large paintings seem to attract obstacles to overcome, and they come in various forms.

  • Push past other's negativity – they don't have your vision!

  • Imagine the final product as glorious!

  • Look forward to completion but enjoy the journey every day! I enjoy listening to interesting podcasts or music while working; playing piano or guitar helps me when I'm tired; so does grass-fed butter or some raw honey; taking long walks helps me get into painting gear; I eat healthy, delicious food to feed my brain. These things are part of a painting's process. They are as necessary as the actual work of putting the brush to paper. 
  • Balance work with rest to stay in the game for the long run. Otherwise you will burn out physically and mentally.

  • A large painting requires a lot of emotional strength to complete. When I finish a large piece or even after a day of tremendous focus on detail, there is sometimes a let down from which I must recover, to do my best again on another day.

  • Rest is hugely important to achieve your best communication. Getting tired and sloppy can destroy something of great value.

  • A solid piece is made up of many tiny pieces - many small decisions combine to become a sublime work of art.

  • Learn to make an effort every day and be glad for the improvement - don't expect you will reach the final stroke for a long time.

  • Be thorough, patient, sensitive, diligent, clear and bold.

  • BELIEVE you can do it. “I think I can” - practise determination.

  • Put down the color you think is best, then adjust later if needed.

  • Take action, just DO something, keep improving slowly!

Below is a play-by-play of how A Slumbering Giant Awakes appeared:

Photos below of a 22x30 watercolor NYC street scene by Elise, painted during a three-week period, in January, 2016, from a photo I took in early April, 2015. Painting time: 46 hours.



Detail of photo above:



 The smallest cars in the very middle were painted here:

 Detail of the above photo:


I actually forgot to photograph the entire painting after spending four hours painting the gray car, below. Here is a detail version of it:

A Slumbering Giant Awakes, 22x30 Watercolor Painting by Elise, January 2016

Warmly, your painting friend,

Elise on Vermont 

"And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof." ~ Revelation 21:23

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