People talk about size and scale in art and sometimes use these terms interchangeably when they are actually a little different. I think of size as the actually physical size of something, and scale as the size relationship between things. If you talk about the large size of a painting and you refer to its large scale, you are usually commenting on the size relationship of the painting compared to your body or compared to another painting.
In my new paintings I have been working in small sizes in the 8-16 inch range. For example, Rock Scramble is 12 x 16 inches. There are great things about working small. When you are trying new things you can experiment more quickly, the painting feels less precious when you begin, there is less commitment to making “a masterpiece” and thus freedom abounds. Additionally, less expense in material costs such as paint and panel/canvas adds to this ease. Of course the goal is to bring that sense of freedom to any size work, however it can be somewhat daunting when you are first facing a huge blank custom made canvas like my 6.5 x 10 foot canvas below! (Click on image for larger view.)
Smaller paintings are quicker to complete, easier to photograph and transport for exhibitions, and easier to sell. With that being said, I do really love painting large canvases! I love the ambition behind the work, the challenge, working with scale and size, and viewing a large painting when complete.
I am having fun working small and more quickly, but there is the urge to find out how my new work will translate as I go bigger. Ultimately I like the idea of working in a variety of sizes. Right now I want to experiment with increasing the size of the work and not necessarily the scale, that is, having more going on in a painting. For example, Manzanita is 12 x 9 inches. If I wanted to increase size and scale, I could paint that same image at 24 x 18 and the tree would be twice as tall and twice as wide, but if I wanted to increase the size of the painting but not the scale, I could paint the tree at the same size on a bigger panel and then add more elements around it. This is what happened in my most recent painting.
Through the Window is a 20 x 32 inch diptych, but it didn’t begin as a diptych. I started working on the right panel first and was planning to make a 20 x 16 painting. It looks different now as it was busier earlier on, although the strong brown vertical has been a constant. I liked where it was headed but I felt like the painting needed more room to breathe and I wished I had more surface to work with. Luckily I discovered I had another exact same size panel in my studio so I popped that up on the easel next to it, grabbed a cup of tea and envisioned a larger view of the painted world I was creating, keeping the scale of the elements the same, almost as if you had just pulled open a curtain on the left side and you had a wider view.