Big is not always best-but it may be the right way to go


'Approaching snow shower, above Braemar'

'Approaching snow shower, above Braemar'

Many years ago, many many years ago as it now seems…when I was in my teens and still working towards my ‘O’ level art at Welshpool High School,  I was told by my art teacher (a Mr Roberts) that when painting it was vitally important to consider every inch of the paper or canvas with equal importance.  This bit of advice has always stuck with me and now that I’m working more regularly on larger pieces, it is something that I am constantly reminding myself of.  It may seem obvious but with constraints of time and cost of materials it can be easy to forget.

The reason for thinking along these lines is that I’ve been considering my own work recently, especially the size of the work I do.  Many of my paintings have been quite small and this has I have to admit, been part due to the need to sell.  That’s certainly not the only reason but it is often one of the deciding factors.  Quite simply, it’s easier to sell smaller works if for no other reason than that most people don’t have the room or the finances for large work.

'The saltings, Irvine harbour side'

'The saltings, Irvine harbour side'

Painting on a small scale is though I think, just as challenging for the painter as working on a large or even grand scale.  It certainly concentrates the mind and focuses ones attention on the composition but I am starting to feel a little trapped when working on this scale now.  I’ve always done the odd larger piece but never really spent a period of time creating larger paintings…..until last year that is.  When I went to Speyer I realised that this would be a chance to do exactly this.  During my stay at the Kunstlerhaus in Speyer I completed 17 pieces of work, all but 2 of them being 80 x 80 cm or larger.  This was very enjoyable at the time and I really didn’t have too many thoughts about selling these larger works…..this was a scholarship and all my accommodation and living expenses were being paid.  At the end of the scholarship though, much of the work sold …even the large 400 x 150 cm drawing.

'The artist with 'Late December afternoon, above Wanlockhead'

'The artist with 'Late December afternoon, above Wanlockhead'

I’ve now been self employed as an artist for just on two years and over that time I’ve developed my work and my art practice quite well.  I’ve increased my sales over this period but have started to come to the realisation that it may be difficult to earn a living through the smaller work.  With my sight as it is, there is a limit to the number of pieces I can do in any one year …I really work quite slowly, and as such, there is a limit to the amount I can reasonably expect to earn.  I have then been starting to think that it would make a lot more sense both financially as well as artistically, to concentrate on larger pieces.  My main aim as an artist has always been to try to do good work …not just to sell and I certainly think that working on a larger scale is where my best work lies.

I am certainly not going to abandon the small pieces entirely …I enjoy doing them and they quite often themselves lead to larger paintings.  I am though, going to put a much greater emphasis on the bigger paintings and as I have the opportunity in October of returning to the Kunstlerhaus in Speyer with an exhibition of my Scottish landscapes I’m doing large pieces for this.

So then, it’ll be interesting to see quite how this gradual change in emphasis works out.  I’ll have to target slightly different outlets and probably look to generate commissions but I’m sure it’ll do me good artistically and in the longer run, financially too. Winning the Jolomo Award in 2009 will allow me to take this ‘gamble’ secure in the knowledge that I can afford to lose some sales of smaller works in order to generate better and potentially more cost effective larger paintings.  I must of course remember the words of Mr Roberts and think about every square inch of the painting surface with equal consideration.  So often when I look around galleries I notice that as the paintings get bigger, the paint quality diminishes and the colours become thin and flat.  I must not fall into this trap.

 

Work in progress

"Work in progress"

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