Size matters. At least for painters. Small paintings appeal to us like a precious gem. Medium sizes self-reflect like a mirror. Larger sizes evoke an expansive space. The size of a painting significantly affects a viewer’s experience.

With this in mind I recently painted a series of small works that feel big. These are posted here, and will be on exhibit at Art on Centre gallery, Amelia Island, Florida on January 11.

Join me in Florida! If you’re in northern Florida this coming weekend, please come by the gallery Saturday and say hello. I will there as the featured artist for Artwalk from 4 to 7 pm Saturday, January 11.

Please preview the show here, then read further for tips on painting small but big.

Sun at Dusk, 6″ x 8″, acrylic & oil pastel on cardboard

Sand Dunes, 6″ x 8″, acrylic and oil pastel on wood panel

Autumn Chama River, 8″ x 10″, oil pastel on bristol paper

Violet River, 6″ x 8″, oil pastel on bristol paper

Golden Moon, 8″ x 10″, acrylic & gold leaf on wood panel

Stardust, 6″ x 8″, acrylic & oil pastel on cardboard

The Dream, 8″ x 6″, acrylic & oil pastel on cardboard

Before the Rain, 6″ x 6″, acrylic & oil pastel on wood panel

Candy Land, 10″ x 8″, acrylic & gold leaf on wood panel

How to paint small but feel big
I love painting large. There’s more room to dance around the painting, make dramatic marks and add big sweeps of color. Painting small has its advantages too. For instance its easier to work smaller when painting outdoors. Working small allows me to quickly move from one painting to the next. It also keeps me inspired by switching from large to small sizes and back again.

For this series of nine small paintings, edges range in size from 6″ to at most 10″. Even though these are quite small, I feel as though they depict a larger space. Here’s what I discovered helps small to feel big.

1. Think big. While in the process of painting, I am aware of how I feel, and imagine I am in an expansive space. I think about the image I am painting as unbounded by the edges of the painting surface.

2. Don’t stop at the edge. I prop up my paintings and make sure I have plenty of elbow room on all sides. This allows my arm the freedom to move off the edge, while applying a brush stroke. In this way the image visibly extends beyond the edges too.

3. Paint several small pieces at the same time. This avoids overworking any one piece in particular. Keeping them light, fresh and overburdened offers a more expansive spatial feel. In addition, paintings made together often work well as a series, since they tend to mirror each other. This compatibility means they hang well together in an exhibit, creating a larger presence.

4. Frame small paintings. Adding a frame expands the image, while also adding focus to the image. As you can see in this example, I added substantial size mats between the image and frame, along with 2″ width frames.




Additional resources:

Read more on this topic: Choosing the Right Canvas Size for Painting

Most of the paintings here were created with oil pastel. Read more about this exciting medium here: Oil Pastel – A Great Medium for Painters

My course Complete Guide to Acrylic Painting offers many techniques including painting with gold leaf.

Study with me online or in person. More info here.