Large or Small


Peppers, Acrylic, 6″ x 6″

As the holiday season approaches, small seems to be in when it comes to paintings.  There’s a very practical reason for this, of course.  They cost less and when it comes to holiday art shows they are competing in price with items like scarves, earrings and other jewelry.  I am in three holiday art shows this year.  The Southwind Gallery Miniature show in Topeka asked artists to paint six inch by six inch paintings which the gallery then framed all in the same way.  That show just opened and will run during November and December.  The Topeka Art Guild Gallery asked artists in their December-January show to contribute art selling for $100 or less, which means that the art will be of small size.  The Holiday Art Fair at the Lawrence Art Center in Lawrence on Saturday November 19 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. did not specify size but when competing with jewelry and other small items I plan on bringing smaller, lower priced paintings.

What can an artist do in a small space?  The painting above will be in the Southwind Gallery Miniature show.  When I am faced with a small canvas I tend to focus on small items.  My other painting in that show is of one water lily.  Not as impressive as a whole pond of them but I think there is something to be gained by limiting one’s focus to just one or a few simple objects.  I loved all the different colors in that one pepper.  Also, if the painting doesn’t work, not so much time and effort have been wasted.

I remember some years ago when I had some paintings in a local gallery, the gallery owner urged me to paint very large paintings.  I think they were in style at the time.  I was told that art majors at our local university were also encouraged to use large canvases.  Well, I tried one that was, I think 48″ x 30.”  It took a long time to paint and then the gallery owner didn’t like it.  I never tried another one that large.  I think smaller paintings have come back and that suits me just fine.


Still Life Doesn’t Move

August Bounty, acrylic, 12" x 16"

August Bounty, acrylic, 12″ x 16″

I don’t paint many still lifes.  Somehow they just haven’t seemed as interesting as a beautiful landscape or a person with an interesting face or pose.  But there are advantages to this kind of art as I realized recently when I painted those vegetables.  I had driven out in the country to paint with friends, which I do almost every week.  It was a hot day and shade can so quickly turn to sun as the light changes.  So I decided I didn’t want to paint on the surrounding grounds.  My friend and her husband have a large garden and at this time of year it is yielding abundantly.  In fact, she had vegetables piled up in the kitchen for us artists to take home.  I took a closer look at them and decided that I would arrange some in one of her bowls to paint.

To me vegetables are for cooking and eating.  But I enjoyed looking at these.  Eggplant has a wonderful, deep color.  Some of vegetables were unfamiliar to me, such as the heirloom tomato that contained various shades of green along with the red and the pale yellow sweet pepper, different in color and shape than the ones I had seen in the supermarket.  The orange and red sweet peppers were a also a different shape.

A good thing about painting a still life is that you can control the light.  Outdoors it is changing constantly.  And still life stays still.  It doesn’t move around like people or animals.  That makes it easier to come back to a painting the next day and still see the same thing in front of you.  Of course this isn’t true if the still life contains flowers in a vase.  Some of them could easily have wilted.  With this arrangement, there was an additional advantage.   When I took the still life home to continue painting the next day, my friend let me keep the vegetables, which were delicious.