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 on exhibit at Art on Centre gallery, Amelia Island, Florida.
Preview the show here, then scroll down further for tips on painting small but big.
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 in small sizes, with images that FEEL BIG
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 gives the illusion it is larger, while also bringing attention and focus to the image. As an example, this framed piece has ample width mats, and along with 2″ width frames brings welcome space around the image.