As an artist, I find my recent “go to” size is: small, smaller, and …smallest. I just love things in small packages.
What is it about small paintings that grab our attention?
Is it that everything they contain can be taken in all at once? Are they less intimidating to embrace or simply more focused on the subject of interest? Do they allow the artist a unique level of freedom and creativity in their making? Have you noticed how smaller works are often focal points in a room regardless of their humble size. Collectors also seem to recognize their value, at times preferring them over an artist’s larger works.
Though large works may be impressive, satisfying to complete, and employ similar artistic considerations learned over many years of hard work, small works may offer something unique. By painting small, an artist must zero in on what really matters. Some of my favourite paintings are the ones that have an economical combination of composition and purposeful brushwork.
I have completed small paintings in just 37 minutes or by restricting each one to no more than 37 strokes, as outlined by one of my mentors, the late Robert Genn. Painting small allows for such experimentation, increasing the artist’s self-awareness and proficiency, as well as joy. New ideas are born and even award winning paintings result.
Painting small provides an artist with numerous benefits. It does not cost a lot to have a stack of small primed supports ready for when creativity flows. The finished or half finished paintings do not take up a lot of space, nor do they overwhelm the trash bin. In other words, they are economical, portable, and educational. More importantly, I often feel they are the most genuine representations of their creator. Small works are like little gems in an artist’s self-esteem crown while adding beauty to an artist’s whole body of work.
In addition, small paintings keep websites fresh with new works and provide images for blogs and articles. Lower pricing may allow for faster sales and their size may make them preferred purchases from travel destinations. More importantly, smaller pieces seem to hold a specific moment in time in an inventive and authentic way that is specific to the artist. This original expression then becomes even more valuable than the subject itself and carries with it a permanent gift.
I’d like to end by encouraging us to embrace small works including a little quote by Mother Theresa, which may help in the little ways we paint. “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
May we bring to our works, big or small, a little bit of ourselves and a little bit of our love. Jane Appleby