Sunday, July 13, 2008

Size Does Matter

(Bid On This Painting)
This will take you over to eBay

The fires in California are still burning out of control, and for the past few days Mt. Shasta has been hiding behind a veil of smoke. Today the winds changed and revealed another glorious sunset. I painted this little view from my studio window on an 8x10 canvas.

Most of my sketches that I paint on location are 6x9 or 8x12. I usually do not paint these little jewels of my observations of nature on a standard size canvas. Some artists have asked me why I don’t paint on canvases that are standard sizes like 6x8 or 8x10, that are cheaper to buy and are less costly to frame. I prefer to paint on canvases with the traditional two by three ratios that have been used throughout history by fine artists because the proportions are more pleasing to me, fit my tastes, and I enjoy painting my personal impressions without the artificial limits that standard size canvases impose. Why do artists limit themselves to painting on a standard size canvas, anyway? Art is a personal expression and the size of the painting that you wish to express this experience should not be limited by standard sizes that are convenient to buy or cheaper to frame.

A painting done on location usually takes a skilled artist about one and a half to two hours of consistent work to complete a painting that recreates a time of day and the sense of place in nature. When painting on location it is important to paint small if you want to capture the moment and complete a painting in under two hours. However, many artists paint larger on location by using bolder strokes and larger brushes. The reason that you want to complete a painting in a short amount of time is that after two hours, the light has changed so drastically that the scene you are painting is no longer the same as when you began painting.

The first painters credited with painting en plein air were the artists of the Barbizan School, a small group of Parisian artists of the 1830’s, who communed with nature and recorded their experiences by painting outdoors on location. Their mission was to capture the essence of the “true light” found in nature. Most of these artists used these sketches of “light” that were small, painted for convenience and portability, as examples for larger works that were finished in the studio and hung in salons.

The next time you start a painting, I invite you to ask yourself, “Should I paint on a standard size canvas, or could my experience be more accurately recreated by painting on an 8 x12 or 9x13 canvas?” You may be surprised how your compositions will thrive if you are open to using canvases that fit your artistic expressions, instead of having your artwork fit the canvas.

If you are interested in experiencing a breakthrough weekend that will take your art to the next level, visit our new website at, and you can download my free book where I share “Everything I know About Painting.”

I hope that we can build a community of artists that can share information with each other.

If you know of any artists that might appreciate being included, let them know about this blog.

I hope to offer more painting tips as this conversation continues. If you have questions that you would like me to answer, please don’t hesitate to email me anytime.

I welcome your feedback.


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