In last week’s blog post, I discussed the fundamental differences of working in a smaller or larger scale when painting. Besides the basic design and detail nuances discussed last week, artists working in pastel have a few other considerations that are relevant to size:
- Surface: Unless you make your own pastel surface, you will be limited to the manufacturer’s surface size offerings. Many popular pastel surfaces are not available larger than 24×36 inches. If you would like to work in a more monumental size, alternative surfaces need to be considered. If you are adept at working with a specific surface, be sure to use the same surface when attempting to work in a different size. This will allow for a degree of technique continuity. Thinner surfaces are more prone to warping and buckling when large and often need extra care. It may be advisable to have them professionally mounted to rigid backings in advance of painting to add stability. Most custom framing facilities or professional art supply stores can provide this service or offer technical advice.
- Weight: Larger paintings undoubtedly weigh more, sometimes substantially more. Surface substrates, protective backing boards, frames, and the addition of the necessary protective glass, all add to the final weight of a large-scale pastel painting, making handling cumbersome. If you are physically unable to handle these larger, heavier paintings, you may need to consider working smaller or enlisting the help of others. Size and weight also increase shipping charges and should be taken into consideration before entering exhibitions. While larger pieces may demand more attention, a well-executed, moderately sized painting may draw equal attention and be much lighter on the pocketbook. When it is necessary to ship larger paintings, additional care should be given to the packaging to ensure the frame and glass remain intact.
- Pastel stick size: Most pastelists have a pastel mark making size preference and break their purchased pastel sticks into sizes that accommodate those marks. These marks can be akin to the brushstrokes utilized by wet painters. While smaller paintings may require fewer marks (brushstrokes) to cover a given area compared to a larger painting, it is advisable to attempt to retain approximately the same amount of marks (brushstrokes) depending on the size of the painting until you are comfortable working in different size formats. To facilitate this stroke size disparity, it is often necessary to adjust the pastel stick size to the painting size; smaller sticks for smaller paintings and visa versa.
It should be noted, people that collect art often purchase many paintings throughout their lifetime. Initially, larger paintings may be of interest to fill large open spaces but over time this leads to a shortage of wall space. By having a diversity of sizes available, you facilitate their ability to continue collecting your work.
There is a lot to be pondered before deciding whether to work small or large. Until you experience the differences, it is hard to know which will be better. I guess that even when it comes to painting, sometimes size really does matter.
MORE RESOURCES FOR ARTISTS
• New Books and DVDs with Maggie Price