One of my colleagues at the Courtyard Studios, Margaret Carslaw, nearly always works on a large scale. Her drawings and paintings are rarely smaller than 120 x 120 cm and usually bigger. As someone who generally works on pieces that are less than a metre square, I’ve always found it fascinating seeing Margaret’s large paintings and watching how she approaches them. Over the years we’ve had many discussions about our work and she’s tried to persuade me of the merits of working on a large scale while I’ve been trying to persuade her that it’s just as challenging working on something small! I guess when it comes down to it, we’re probably both right but I’ve certainly found myself drifting towards creating larger work.
Of course, all the creative bumf aside, there is a practical side to this which if you want to exhibit and sell work, does come into it ……..the simple question of how to transport large works. When we changed vehicles back in 2010 we had originally thought of getting a small van instead of a car. It seemed to make sense except for the fact that we occasionally need to carry passengers…..apart from the legality or otherwise of it, we didn’t think our friend Guy would enjoy sitting on the floor bouncing around in the back of a van all the way to Glencoe and back and Nita’s parents on their annual visit certainly wouldn’t enjoy the experience either, even if it was just to go down to the Harbourside! So then, Nita spent many hours pawing through the ‘What car’ magazines before finally coming up with a Citroen Nemo …..a boxy thing that would take a lot of paintings up to a metre wide and a vehicle that was very economic too. It’s been a very good compromise and I can fit a lot of this smaller sized work in it when I need to and Guy and Nita’s parents can ride in it comfortably.
As I say though, I’ve gradually been moving towards doing larger work and decided last year that I had, in the exhibition / drawing project arranged for Nov / Dec at the our neighbouring Harbour Arts Centre, an excuse to do a couple of larger paintings …..it’s less than 100 metres from the Courtyard to the HAC so no vehicles needed to transport the work ….I can simply carry the paintings across. I bought what for me is quite a large canvas ….120 x 120 cm back before Christmas and started work on it almost straight away.
It’s been a really good experience and I decided from the outset that I’d try using my father’s big old horse hair house painting brush on this painting. I want it to be quite bold as well as quite textural. The brush is at least six inches wide and the course hairs leave wonderful marks in the thick oil paint. Four months on from starting it, the painting is still in progress but starting to come together now. I’ve been spending a day on it and then letting the paint dry for a few days so that I can build up overlapping layers of colour and mark. The painting is a reworking of an idea I had back in 2008 but which at the time I did on a much smaller scale and in a landscape format. I want the painting to be as much about the colour, composition and texture as about the landscape…..but as usual will try to create a balance between the two.
Anyway, with this piece well under way, I’ve just made a note to order another 120 x 120 cm canvas as well as something around 120 x 40 cm ……this to create something based on the wild snow covered landscape that we experienced around Corrour the other week. Margaret may well be winning the battle of wills…..I seem to be getting hooked on doing bigger work! And what about my transportation argument I hear you shout? Well, just last week a lady visited my studio who is planning to set up a small business in the area transporting artwork in a large van she owns. She’s a painter herself…..so if she gets set up, transporting the occasional large canvas may not be so problematic…..that’s my excuse anyway!