Monday, February 7, 2011

Size does matter in most cases!

Wow, I bet a few people choked back a laugh when they read that title!  I am talking about the size of art work though, not the size of um, well [blush], something else that you might have had in mind.  Yes, the size of the piece of art work that I am working on does make a difference in the way that I approach it and the time it takes to prepare and execute the painting, collage or any piece that I am working on at any given time.

Last week, I did up five collages in two sessions that were carried out over two consecutive afternoons.  I was feeling pretty good both days and felt able to stay with my collage work and keep my focus.  I had not expected ahead of time that I would be working in that medium and so when I was looking at my art supplies for inspiration, it was my supply of Japanese paper that caught my eye and pulled me in the direction of doing a collage.  Looking through my supply of paper, there were a few particular pieces of paper that kept reaching out to me.  That may sound foolish to others, but other artists who work on collages will agree that at moments, it will be certain  pieces of paper, certain colours, certain patterns that capture their eyes and their heart.  These pieces of paper may be very small or very large, it does not really matter, the point is that there is something in them that demands your attention and you just have to start working with them, to use them in some type of art piece.  That is the way it is with me.  I will not rest, at least not easily until I have done some work using these pieces. 

When I did those collages, there were two sizes, three were 12 inches by 11 inches, and two were 7 inches square.  As you would think, the two smaller pieces took significantly less time to make.  But in retrospect, the five pieces did not take as long as I thought they might have.  I was completely oblivious to time as I worked away at pulling the pieces together, finding the appropriate stamps to use, doing test stampings to make the decision as to what colour of ink to use.  Once I had all the pieces selected and knew what I was going to use and the colour palette, I could start the actual cutting and gluing.  It was the preparation to do the work that used up a lot of time, more so than the actual execution of work.  That being said, time flew by and I was amazed at the time on the clock when I finished.  But, in hindsight, I completed five pieces of art in a not too significant allotment of time.  At least for me, using two afternoons to work on these pieces was not unusual.  I will often work away, generally taking a bit of a break to make more tea every couple of hours, and use up the later part of an afternoon right through the evening until it is quite late.  Many times, it will be long after midnight when I decide to give it a rest and call it a night.  I might not be finished with the piece that I am working on, but with the collages, I was done after two average sessions.  I was not tired beyond belief; I was feeling satisfied, content with what I had accomplished in those periods of time.

I am putting up a picture of a collage that I started over a year ago and I do not feel that it is quite finished.  What you see was done in an afternoon, using about three or four hours.  While I like what I see, am happy with the colours and design, I still feel that there is something missing.  I have the piece set out where I can see it every day.  I move it around from one room to another so that I see it in different settings and in different lighting.  I know that there is something lacking, but I just am not able to put my finger on what that something is, whether it is a texture, a colour or a particular image.  I will keep looking at this piece wondering what I need to do with it until I get that flash of inspiration that sends me rummaging through my supplies looking for that element and finish off a piece that I started with so much enthusiasm, believing that I knew exactly what the finished product would be.  This is not a large piece.  The canvas background is only 10 inches square.  One would think that such a small piece would not take any great length of time, but it has taken a lot of time and despite my best intentions, is still a work in progress.  I am hoping to put those last finishing touches to it in the next few months.

What you will see at present is that I coloured the background of the canvas with a peach coloured chalk which was rubbed onto the surface and then buffed until most of the colour was taken off leaving the colour much more muted.  I then glued on an ivory coloured paper with a gold metallic pattern, the piece of paper being about 8 inches square.  At this point, rummaging through my treasured paper stash, I found the perfect piece of ivory paper with a butterfly pattern on it.  This was glued on the collage on a diagonal so as to maximize the amount of pattern showing from the previous piece of paper.  I then cut strips of a cinnamon coloured 1/4 inch ribbon to surround the perimeter of both pieces of paper.  This strong coloured ribbon seems to set off each piece of paper, making them float on the peach background.  I then glued on the faux Asian coins at the corners of the papers, using two sizes of coins for more contrast.  My final embellishment was to add two small strips of Japanese paper, one to the top and one to the bottom of the gold on ivory paper.  I suspect that this is what has stalled the process.  The addition of this paper brought in more colours, which although they tie in with what had already been glued down, they add more colour than I had thought would be in the final piece.  Here is where I learned to be very sure and pick out all the papers that I plan to use and lay them down to see how all the colours and patterns look together before gluing them into their final position.  I could try to pull these two strips of paper away, but that would damage the peach canvas and to try to facilitate a repair that would not catch one's attention would be next to impossible.

Now, as a contrast in size and time, I have put up a picture of a painting that I completed in one evening. Saturday evening to be exact.  I have been longing to use one of my 24 inch square canvases since they arrived about a month ago.  Well, famous for my courage, I was determined that Saturday night would be the night to experiment with one and I had a wonderful time working on it.  Despite my conscious decision to not paint too many florals, I thought that a large poppy-like flower would be just the subject to start off my attempts to transition to a larger canvas.  In fact, I hope to do two more canvases using a floral theme to complement the poppy painting.  Now, a canvas this size is something to wrestle with for a not so tall artist using their dining table as their work surface.  I find that I do not like to work using an easel for the most part.  I much prefer to lay the canvas flat on my table or to prop it up a a very minor angle to work most efficiently.  This canvas completely covered my table.  Famous for my courage, I continued setting out my paints on my palette which was then set on a side table along with my jars of water and selection of brushes much the way a surgeon would lay out their implements on a surgical table.  I started by working on the poppy gradually building up the intensity of the quinacridone magenta centered by a patch of deep violet in the center.  Then, I was on to working on the background.  Using bleached titanium and Naples yellow, I dabbed the colours throughout the background and on all four sides of the canvas.  I like the way that the poppy is offset by the textured background.  To me, the way that the colour went down in the background is reminiscent of an old cement wall, perhaps in an old village in France or Italy.  The colours are warm and inviting and although the poppy is bright in its colour, it does not hit you in the face with its brilliance.  At least, this is the way that I see it but I might be a little off kilter here.  The magenta is by no means an insignificant colour, especially since it covers so much of the canvas.  However, the background colours are quite noticeable as well and I feel that they help to mute the poppy colour to an acceptable level of intensity that does not overwhelm the viewer.

I thought that this canvas would take a appreciable amount of time to complete.  So, it was to my surprise that I had it completed within a four hour time span.  That is a fair amount of time and I am quite certain that a more experienced painter would have taken even less time to paint such a simple subject.  But, for me, I was quite pleased with the expenditure of time and the execution of labour to produce the finished piece.  It is complete to my way of thinking as I wanted the painting to be simple and not over done.  I have accomplished what I set out to do and am pleased with the result.  I hope that the next two experiments of this size using similar subjects will produce a trio of paintings to put up in my front room where they will add a fair dash of colour against a solid background of my beloved blue green walls.  However, I must confess that there may be a change in the wall colour in the near future, but that is a tale for another day and once I have finalized my decision.

So, we have three different sessions producing very different results.  Five collages being done in two sittings means that those pieces really did not take that much time to complete.  The largest pieces were only 12 inches by 11 inches.  It was the painting of these three backgrounds along with the drying time that took up the most time.  At one time, I truly felt that to complete any piece of art that was almost a square foot in size would take a fair amount of time.  I now realize how small that size is compared to a monster canvas (or at least it was for me) that was 24 inches square.  That monster did take more time to complete, but not as much time as I thought that it would have taken me.  I do not like to rush through the process of creating something.  I like to take my time to think about what I am doing and I will not rush when I am in actual painting mode.  It just does not seem right to rush at something that I enjoy and so I could rightly be accused of prolonging the process because it is so enjoyable.  That being said, I will not say that I was dismayed at the collage work being completed in the length of time that it took.  I was eager to see the completed work and I think that spurred me on to get on with it and keep working until every last bit was completed to my satisfaction.

The verdict - yes, size does matter to the artist.  A larger piece of art work will take more time in most cases, but when you are enjoying what you are doing, the length of time to produce a work will not matter.  As long as you enjoy the process and are happy with the end result, the expenditure of time is not something to worry about.  You do what you have to do and take the amount of time necessary to get a particular result and life moves on.  For me it generally moves slowly, deliberately, but it does move on from the completion of one piece to the beginning of another and so on.  As long as I have something to work on, beginnings and endings really do not matter.  What does matter is that I am enjoying myself and feel that my time is well spent.  That is the way my journey plays out.  I am never at a loss for something to do, but I never feel pressured to move on to another juncture before I feel the need.  My journey is slow, with measured steps, but it does move me forward because I learn something with every piece that I work on.  As long as you are in the process of learning, you really cannot complain.

I would love to hear what you think about the amount of time it takes to complete different sizes of art work.  Do you take longer on the larger pieces because of the size, the amount of concentration it takes to paint such a large piece or because you are justifying each stroke of the brush against the canvas?  Do you try to be economical on what you are working because of the expense of large canvases and the cost of using significantly more paint on them?  Does a collage take you less or more time than a comparable sized painting?  All questions to ponder before you start your next project.  One thing I will point out about working on larger canvases is that you do want to be sure about the amount of paint you will be using for the most important parts.  Nothing is more frustrating than to run out of the paint you are using for the main subject and then when you rush to your favourite art supply store and find out that they are out of stock on that particular colour.  I strongly suggest that when you find a sale on your favourite paints that you stock up on an extra tube or two of the colours that you use the most.  I guarantee you that I will be buying an extra tube or two of Naples yellow the next time that I am out shopping.  I can guarantee that you will be seeing that colour in more than a few painting over the next few months!

Sincerely,  Rutheemac 

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