Painting Small Is a State of Mind
“Giving watercolor its full respect, I would refer to your work not as sketches but ‘paintings.’ Using the word sketches often means the work is a study for something that comes next. But in fact, these works do stand strong on their own, so calling them paintings is not wrong in my mind.”
Perhaps because I am painting small, only 4 x 6, I always thought of these as studies. But I want to discuss this topic further, so here goes.
When I drove through Turku, Finland, last August, I made a quick watercolor sketch of the Turku Cathedral. In the photo, below, you can see me sitting in view of the main cathedral entrance, across the river, with my sketchbook in hand.
This original watercolor sketch was 8 x 5. Because I was painting small, it took only about 15 minutes to create.
Later at home, I made several other studies from my trip sketches and photos — like the one below. The size of this study is 6 x 4, making it even smaller than the one created en plein air. This study was completed in approximately 15 minutes as well.
Sketching … Or Painting?
I did not plan to make other more formal or finished paintings of this cathedral. So it was nothing like Harry calls “something that comes next.” From this point of view, my watercolor study should be considered a “painting.”
However, let’s look at another statement from Harry: works that “stand strong on their own.” Hmmm, I would not say so. But let’s look at this study (or painting?) in two different contexts: first, as a sketch in the studio; and second, as a framed “finished” piece:
Now I know what turns a study into a painting: a frame! And, putting it on a shelf between flowers. No one could call it a “study” after that.
And for more on painting small and why size really doesn’t matter, check out Think Big Paint Small by Joyce Washor. This book is all about painting with ease and convenience.
Because you are working with a small canvas, Washor shares painting ideas you can execute much quicker than when you work on a larger scale.
Check out this fun preview of the book, below. Happy small painting, artists!
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