So, as I have said last week, I have been newly inspired and was itching to get painting this week. I laid into it on Tuesday on returning from the print workshop. The result of that session was a painting, not finished, but well under way and not unsatisfactory though, for the first time ever, I began to get a sneaking feeling that the paintings I had in mind would work a lot better on bigger canvasses rather than on smaller ones.
I usually work small for quite a few reasons. Practically speaking larger canvasses are more expensive as are larger brushes but, even worse, the paint I use is Artist Quality and it would cost a fortune to cover a large canvas.(By large I’m talking over 2ft square). Storage is also another factor. Where do you put the ones you don’t sell?How do you transport them and who will buy them?
On an artistic level, I have found that small pictures often pack a larger punch than bigger ones. Not straight away though. They have more of a tendency to sneak up on you, the small ones, and hit you over the head. I learned this when I worked as a cleaner in the Bank of Scotland in Edinburgh. Over the course of a year their collection of landscapes went from beneath my notice to pervading my mind. Amazing stuff.(Small isn’t always good though. Frida Kahlos work is smaller and duller in real life than in print.)
On a personal level, I just do not have the concentration needed to work on a big piece for long, I need to be finishing things all the time or I get disinterested and discouraged.
Big pictures can be overwhelming to look at too, often for the wrong reasons-too garish, too much busy surface-especially in a regular sized space, like a living room. I think it’s also quite rare to find an artist that can paint with enough sustained energy to, not only fill a big surface, but make every inch matter.
From my own observations, often it’s the men that take on the size challenge, (surprise surprise 😉 ) and though the women are not at all immune to the size issue (ahem) I think its easier for us ladies to work on a smaller scale. Maybe it’s just a mark of the expansiveness of youth rather than a gender thing but it’s easy to tell, especially after a brief meeting(no pun intended, really…)how big a young bucks work is going to be. The up side for us more “mature” artists is that it can be amusing to see new minted artists look down their noses at wee paintings like mine and then have to dump or dismantle all their own work.
Having said all that some of my favourite painters paint big works. Jackson Pollock HAD to go large as his art was to express the range of human movement. If an artist has the talent and chutzpah to make it work, yes, go for it!So, I don’t necessarily dislike big pictures just gratuitious big pictures.
Right now working small works for me because it keeps painting within my reach, maintains some delicate balance inside my antsy head and means that no matter how erratic my work practise I will always produce pieces.
….but, (isn’t there always a but?)… somewhere in my own head there is a dream of a massive studio, massive canvasses and tons of paint for throwing about. (Mind you, it’s usually red paint so this could be more about my own psychology rather than any creative practise… )
You can imagine, then, how discombobulated I was on Tuesday when these blasted, unborn pictures started hinting that they needed to be bigger. The little bastards shouldn’t be able to even talk yet and here they are, demanding more space. Still, I figured, I would do a few more and see if I could re-jig some ideas in my head, surely some of them would work?
On Wednesday I started another, maybe 8 x 10 inches. It was one of the ones that would form the basis of the show and I was eager to start. I got the canvas covered in paint. In the past, once I have reached this point, though the picture is not finished and a bit rough, it usually points the way to the end product and always in the past I have been happy by this stage.
I stood back from it after three hours expecting to be happy and you know what?It was shite. I mean really shite. And worse, I couldn’t figure out why it was shite, though I expect the size might have something to do with it.
This morning I woke up to a feeling of dread and an extreme reluctance to approach the easel. So I did the only thing I could think of and followed the advice of legendary surfer Miki Dora who said, “There is no problem so big that it can’t be run away from” and I ran off with my body board into the sea.