A Question of Scale

Landscape CommissionI was talking to a colleague at the Courtyard studios the other day.  He’d just completed a large painting as a commission and he said he thought that my own work would lend itself well to this scale. 

Most of the work I do is really quite modest in size …the practicalities of transporting big paintings and of course, selling them, rather dictate their dimensions.  That said however, when I was asked back in 2007 to produce a large painting two metres high by around a metre wide, I jumped at the idea and it was great fun and quite a challenge. 

I’d done some large drawings in the past but never worked on a painting this size before.  The materials I use and the ways I work with them (acrylic paint and scribbled pastel line) work well together on the smaller scale, but I was very unsure whether this would work in a big painting.  The location for the painting was also a serious consideration …it was to hang on a large stairwell wall, and so would be seen from a short distance away as one approached the stairs and very close to, as one passed by at the small landing half way up.

The clients gave me a completely free hand in the subject and design of the painting and it seemed important to me to create something that worked from both below and above.  I had been walking with our local mountaineering club Air na Creagan earlier that year, in the low hills around Wanlockhead in the southern uplands and we’d been treated to some amazing winter colours and deep shadows on this late December afternoon.  I decided to base the painting on this and to create a composition that had a view point that gave depth in the foreground as if looking into a steep sided glen, but also led the eye upwards towards the hilltops and sky. 

Above Wanlockhead

It was quite a lengthy project, the final painting taking around three months to produce, and before that, a number of weeks producing smaller preliminary works in which I tried out various ideas and compositions.  It was great fun and it allowed me to use much larger brushes and brush strokes.  Surprisingly the fine scribbled marks did work on this scale even with six inch wide brush strokes.  In the end, it turned out to be one of the better pieces I’ve done and certainly the client seemed very happy.  After that I did another large painting …the same dimensions but this time in the horizontal.   Having no customer for this and no time limit, I was slightly more relaxed about this painting…and I experimented somewhat more with the paint and pastels.

I’ve now got the bug again and am starting to think about working on this scale again.  It’s not particularly practical, but what the hell, I never really was that practical and when it comes down to it, it’s really all about trying to do good painting.  So then, if there’s anyone out there wanting a large painting for their house or business …give me a shout …I have a pot of large paint brushes just ready and waiting to go!

83 'Upland scene', Acrylic & Pastel, 2008, 200 x 100 cm

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