Monday, May 3, 2010

Working Small, Working Big

When we see artwork reproduced in books, it’s sometimes hard to get a sense of scale, which has a big effect on the making of the art.

Here is Lawrence Alma-Tadema working at his easel in the 1890s. Tadema frequently created finished paintings that were no more than 5 inches on their short side.

Dean Cornwell, by contrast, had to be hoisted up on ropes to paint his murals for the Los Angeles Library, which he completed in 1932. His foot was bandaged, having been hurt in an accident. He had to move to England to be trained in the art of mural painting, and to find suitable mural space.

The painting he is working on was called “Earth: Gold in the Ground,” one of eight subjects on California history, each measuring 12 feet wide by 19 feet high.

The library commission paid barely enough to pay his expenses. He had to borrow money from his life insurance policy to afford his children’s college education.


Cheri said...

When I took art classes at ISU, people kept telling me I needed to work bigger. I wish I had found your blog back then - I think it's good to be able to paint big, but I also think it's just as important to paint small too. It's really hard to lug giant canvases about!

Rachel said...

I am not a professional artist by any means, but when I went to the local community college to take Drawing 1 the teacher said "fill the page, fill the page" and in Drawing 2 a different teacher said just as confidently "Do all 5 drawings on one page".

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I don't know why big canvas has a tendency to scare me... All this white, all this paint to put on...
I'ts harder to build good proportions because we have more space for errors (yeah, good excuse!)
But I Like smaller works for (outdor) color sketches, to focus on color & value.
Here is a video about people who have a good reason to be scared when painting big:

A documentary that offers painters (in letter and advertising)
to tell their story, talk about their jobs in extinction.

(sorry if my english is not correct)

Anonymous said...

Fascinating. (btw, this Cornwell mural looks to me a bit wider than just 12 feet.) Here is another artist who did large scale paintings, Vlaho Bukovac: