Sunday, July 17, 2011


This week I thought I would post a little about scale. Scale, or the size that an artist decides to work with, is one of the first choices he/she will make when beginning a work.

Of course the image above is just for fun, because we are clearly not talking about that kind of scale.

In a recent discussion with a friend, my acquaintance mentioned one of my works and described it as large. The dimensions of the piece in question is 30" X 22". This is by no means small, but compared to my other works it is significantly smaller. I didn't say anything, but in the back of my mind I was thinking "Hmm...that's actually a smaller image." This got me thinking about my works, the sizes they are, and why I generally paint in large scales.

To answer these questions I think it's important to understand the way I work. For the most part I paint in watercolor. I like the freedom and ease of the medium, but I also like the nature of using water to paint. I like the drippy, sloppy, runny quality of the brush and paint. Frequently I will intentionally hang my paper on the wall as I work in order to get the drips of water to flow more fluidly. This effect is enhanced in larger scales. I have done this with smaller works, but often the paint just blends together. With a smaller scale the resulting image still contains the free flow of water, but lacks individual droplets.

This explains a little of why I like to paint on large surfaces. I think there are other factors, but I don't want this post to be overly long. I will therefore stop with what I have said. What do you think? What scales do you work in? What are the scales of some of your favorite works of art? Do you think they would still be effective if they were created smaller or larger?


Jillian Garner said...

I would say that I work medium; definitely not small, but also definitely not as big some of my other artist friends. The box your painting came in was large, but the piece itself I'd say is medium to small-large - haha! The scale in the photo is very off balance ;)

Jon said...

Interesting thoughts on the interplay between scale and media. The way that you use scale in order to take advantage of watercolor's qualities is really neat. Lord knows I'm not a visual artist, but I think that the same factors can come into play for writers as well. For instance, studies in educational development have shown that people form longer sentences when writing by hand than when using a keyboard.

Further, I think the visual field influences writers too. For instance, everyone knows that I'm much too verbose when I get started, but when I borrow Kim's tiny little Acer notebook, I feel that, on that small screen, the words are crushed together, and I find myself writing less overall, producing shorter sentences, and breaking my writing into more, smaller paragraphs in response.

Of course, that's not what I like to do, so my preferred media are a nice large screen when typing (I have a 17" monitor for my desktop) and an 8 1/2 x 11 college-ruled notebook, with lots and lots of empty pages, when writing by hand (which I still do fairly often). Those let me work on the verbal scale I want to, a scale that is both visual and conceptual.

Klublog said...

I love the literary reference. I have drawn comparisons between the literary and art worlds before, but people do not always follow my thoughts. The way I see it, they are both forms of communication so there are bound to be abundant similarities.