Sunday, October 17, 2010

What Size To Make A Painting

OK, so I've got an idea for my next painting.  I feel like depicting a scene from my lobstering days.  I was a "sternman" on a lobster boat in Maine for one season.  Hardest job I have ever done!  Sternmen do all the work while the captain just steers the boat.  Captains will tell you that they are responsible for every part of the operation, and the sternmen just stuffs the bait bags and bands the keepers.  Hard to say whose right...  Anyway, I'm all kinds of excited about starting the new painting.  I plan on doing multiple sketches, color studies-- you name it, whatever it takes to make this one a great painting.

I always want to paint a great painting.  You know, the masterpiece that someday art students will stand in front of in awe.  (Hey, a guy can dream, can't he?) But, who doesn't want to paint a masterpiece, right?  I used to think that "Important" paintings were large.  I mean, artists are always talking about making the BIG painting.  And small is... well, small.  Unimportant.  Insignificant.  Or so I thought.  I have since altered my thinking on this.  I have come to the conclusion that size ain't what it's cracked up to be.
If you ever have the chance to be fortunate enough to stroll through the corridors and galleries of the Louvre Museum in Paris, you'll find masterpieces of every size.  From the house-sized The Coronation Of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David, to DaVinci's more manageably sized Mona Lisa, and all sizes in-between.  But why were they painted that size?  Artist ego is one reason.  You know, the desire to paint a picture that someday art students would stand in front of in awe.  Another reason is complexity of detail.  The Coronation is certainly packed with detail, namely about a hundred life-sized portraits.  Couldn't very well paint that one 11X14, now could you?  Meanwhile, Mona would have looked silly at any other size.  Another consideration pertaining to size was where was the painting going to hang?  Huge, cavernous palace walls, or more humble environs?  But does that stuff matter in today's world?  Do huge paintings sell?  Do people want an over-the-sofa painting that's twenty feet by thirty feet?  I know alot of galleries want smaller works so they can hang more paintings on their walls.  But can you put alot of emotional impact into a picture that's 8"X8"?

The formula I use to determine what size I'll paint a picture is a simple one:  If the painting is full of details, I'll paint it on the smaller side.  I have a tendency to try to paint the hairs on an ant's ass if given the chance, so I try to minimize that trait by going small.  Conversely, if the picture has wide open spaces, I can paint it bigger and not worry about getting bogged down in details.  So, what size is my new one going to be?

Well, I'm thinking of naming it The Coronation Of Kevin, The Sternman.

1 comment:

Susan Roux said...

Lol Hi Kevin. You're too funny. Haven't stopped by in a few days and am enjoying the chuckles you offer.

Size? I'm finding myself on 4x4" canvas these days. I surely miss a larger format... Its all for the sake of sales.