There’s a tradition among some Native American ceramists that I know, which I have always admired. These artists consider the selection of materials as the actual starting point of their art making process. The location they choose to collect their clay is just as important, as the making of the clay pot, and is in fact a deciding factor in how the final piece turns out. Modern artists are fortunate to have most ingredients and materials pre-made and ready-made. Paint comes in tubes, canvases are pre-stretched and even primed. But we still have choices, and the choices we make right in the beginning are an essential part of the process of making our art. Sometimes we just take it for granted, but what we choose pre-determines the end result. Before the first brushstroke is even considered, an emotional “content” is already inherent in the choices we had made.
Take, for instance, selecting a painting surface. Large, medium or small sizes each carry a different emotional weight. Anything painted on a small surface will appear to the viewer as a “gem” or a precious object. Something medium sized ( any side measuring about half a person’s height) will be more directly personal. The viewer is imagining looking in a mirror if it is vertical, and looking out of a window if horizontal. Any size that is our height or larger will evoke a “cosmic” or grandeur of the universe appearance.
Some artists use this emotional content regarding size to their advantage. Here is a painting by New York artist Chuck Close, who paints close-up intimate portraits on super large scale formats. The jolt between what you expect and what you see adds a dynamic quality to his work.
Here is my latest small painting, measuring a mere 8” x 8”.