Paint it Big

I like to paint big.

And when I say big, I mean over three feet.

For some reason I’m more confident when I work large. It’s not as scary as you’d think. I’m more afraid of messing up on a small canvas, because there, the mistakes are more obvious.

When I did the Nashville365 series, I tried to crank out small pieces, mostly under seven inches. I was miserable, because I like to move around when I paint. I sort of dance. I never sit still. I’m a kinesthetic learner. In college I would pace the room as I studied my class notes.

I want to move my whole body. Paint from my shoulder, pivot from my waist. No tiny, pansy movements from my wrist.

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Painting on a five-foot canvas in front of a group is thrilling. It doesn’t give me stage fright. The only thing that scares me is that the audience won’t understand what I’m doing, that my message is unclear. I want to move people. Five feet seems too small sometimes! I want a canvas taller than I am.

Large art is bold by default.

With tiny art, you might remember a high level of detail, but it is probably less likely to be iconic.

Think of Picasso’s Guernica or Motherwell’s Elegy to the Spanish Republic. They’re huge. Monumental. Iconic. Unforgettable.

Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 110, Easter Day, 1971. Acrylic with graphite and charcoal on canvas, 82 × 114 inches (208.3 × 289.6 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Gift, Agnes Gund, 1984, 84.3223. Robert Motherwell © Dedalus Foundation, Inc./Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
There are exceptions… Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is surprisingly small. So is Dali’s The Persistence of Memory.

I guess for me, small is boring. I’d rather paint or draw something big, monumental and hopefully iconic. I can still hear my freshman drawing and comp teacher Paul Pitt (aka Coyote Clay) telling us to “Draw from your deltoid!”

Give me room to move, to make art that is literally dynamic in its creation.