Sunday, June 20, 2010
As a change from some of the tight work and printing that I've been doing lately, I felt the need to start something large in oils. This is what's currently on my easel. Its 12" x 36" and of a capelin. Yes, yet another fish...
The scale of paintings in the 21st century are much smaller than those in the 17th or 18th centuries which often were 6 or 7 feet long and perhaps 3 or 4 feet wide. The size of houses and available wall space make it more difficult to hang very large pieces and pricing would be prohibitive for the artist and the buyer.
There are good and bad aspects of working larger. Its very freeing in many ways and allows me to slap on paint that I would normally used in a more controlled way. The sheer act of using larger brushes prevents me from focusing on detail. Standing back from the piece is crucial to make it become believeable. When you're on top of something large that you're working on, you don't see easily what isn't working, so moving back 8 or 10 feet at frequent intervals helps me make sure that what I'm painting isn't skewed.
When working on a larger scale, the painting becomes very abstract, as it is just values and colours and I sometimes forget just what I am painting, hence the importance of stepping back often from it. In this case, instead of filling a larger canvas with images and background, I choose to simply make the focus a single object on a larger scale.
Scaling up an initial drawing can be done several ways. I choose to use a projector to enlarge to this scale, simply to save time. And before someone wades in on the 'is a projector cheating' argument; no, it isn't. I see it as a tool to help save me time, not draw for me.
Of course more paint is used on a larger canvas and the canvas itself more expensive, but it shouldn't deter anyone from trying something larger. Sales and use of student grade paints can overcome economics if you really want to try larger scale pieces.
It will take more time to paint a larger canvas and if you're one for instant gratification, then large paintings won't be your idea of fun. Errors in your initial drawing will become magnified on a larger scale and what you could get away with on a small canvas won't stand up to scrutiny on a large one.
12 x 36 isn't that large, but suits my purposes for today. I have much larger canvases sitting and waiting for the right piece to go on them. However I do like the long horizontal or vertical formats that this size canvas enables.
How large are your paintings? How large would you like to go?