Size Matters

Have you seen this painting before?

O.K but have you really seen it?

The vast majority of  people who have seen this painting will have viewed it on a screen or in a book at a maximum width of say 30cm. The real thing is ten times that size.

The way we experience something changes according to it’s size and whether we are in the actual space with it.

This painting was designed to be large and for the person viewing it to be in the same room as it exists.

Here it is again, We are standing in front of the painting and we want to see the whole thing so stand 15 feet or so away from the painting. At this distance we become aware that there is more going on in the painting than can be observed at that distance so we move physically closer.

This painting has a series of ‘frames’. A ‘frame is designed to hold the viewers eye within that space. In this case as we are drawn towards the image our gaze is held within that series of ‘frames’.

Closer now but there is still more to see as we are drawn into the subjects world. 

Our relationship with the subject begins to feel more intimate, we have spent time here now.

The ‘framing’ becomes more complex at this proximity and we start to feel an emotional connection with the subject.  

At this distance we are almost as close to the glass as the figure is. we are just the other side of the door. 

There is a lot to observe, we can create a narrative, we can study the patterns in the flesh or look at the technical details of the painting. Hopefully our quiet observational introspection starts to match the subjects.

The action of spending real physical time and space with the painting creates a moment of empathy with the subject.

I hope to write a few more pieces on how size effects different paintings in different ways.

 Watch this space.

Getting to the Point

Top Tip

To all amateur artists out there who use a pencil I say ‘Make it sharp and keep it sharp’. 

If you use a pencil sharpener for that task then ‘dump it, lose it or crush it’. 

To sharpen a pencil correctly you need a very sharp knife, some sandpaper a little patience and a steady hand. Aim to expose a lot of wood and a lot of lead then carefully roll the pencil lead on the sandpaper to as sharp a point as possible. If you can’t spear the pencil through the eyes of an enemy it’s not sharp enough. See the picture.

I say pencil but what I mean is pencils, don’t just use one pencil in a drawing, use all the pencils from 7H-7B. The greater the range the greater the potential for mark making. Always think about which pencil and why.

Why Bother?

A blunt pencil drawing screams ‘Amateur’ and  no one wants that!.

The best reasons though are that with a correctly sharpened pencil you have more options available to you when making a mark in response to the subject and you will be forced to think about why that mark is best. 

Holbein kept them sharp, I keep them sharp and you should too.

The End


Reality Exhibition 2014-2015

In 2014 and 2015 I participated in The Reality exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich and the the Walker Gallery in Liverpool. The exhibition showcased the best of modern British realist painting. I wrote a series of 5 Blogs for the exhibition.

part 1 

part 2

part 3

part 4

Part 5

Using Format