But how big should it be?…

But first…
Dulltown, Europe: Today’s featured item of food is the cheeky taciturn poached egg.
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Advice for budding artists: How big should it be?
Size does seem to matter. When I was at art school there was a student in my year who did very small, but detailed paintings – I suppose you might call them miniatures. His work wasn’t very popular with the tutors though, in fact they chucked him out after the first term because he refused to work any bigger.
I suppose the average person who drifts into an art gallery out of the rain doesn’t know much about art. Good!… You shouldn’t need to!… Art is for the ‘general public’. People look at art and react to it in some way, that’s what painting and sculpture is all about. Art is for humans – all of them. Oh, and by the way, I’m steering clear of ‘performance art’ and ‘installations’ here, even just thinking about that sort of thing makes me feel queasy…
So, large or small? Well, the bigger the better I suppose. You do tend to see small pieces of work in people’s homes, whereas the large pieces are in art galleries. I think the logic of ‘large art’ goes like this: If you can afford to do large pieces of work you must be successful and of course well off, and if you are successful and well off, you must be good
If you happen to be a poor artist you will have no money for all those materials and supplies, and the place you live won’t have enough space to store large pieces when they are finally finished. This is why I tend to work on paper – paper is thin and you can pack quite a lot of art into a small space behind the settee. I suppose if your aim is to just sell your work to local people you should work on smallish things that will fit into their modest living rooms – it’s no good doing great big bright six-foot by four-foot canvases and wondering why nobody is buying them.
Big photos: I have seen some really quite ordinary and boring photographs blown up to several feet across on gallery walls; they do look ‘sort of’ impressive because of their size, but if you saw them as a A4 size print you would hardly spend a second or two of your time on them. We have a few of these big ones in the local Dulltown gallery, they are very dull. A photo is a photo, and a good one will look good and say what it has to say, whatever size it is – or am I being naive?
Isn’t it interesting that when you see an exhibition of small drawings or engravings by some old master, perhaps Leonardo or Durer, they always put them in nice big frames so they sit snug in the middle surrounded lots of expensive mounting card – it works too – they do look more valuable than they would in an 8″x 6″ frame. ‘Valuable’ – that’s what we like to see, isn’t it? Oh, and by the way, should big works cost more than small ones? I suppose so, you get more for your money, or do you?
So, advice to young artists: Make things as big as you can afford and have space to store them. All this is assuming that you actually make things – these days practical skills, like slapping paint around and working wood or metal, don’t count for much any more. Nobody really cares how well you can use your eyes, your mind, or your hands, it is how well you can bullshit, oh, and also who you know ‘in the business’. If you are good at all that nonsense and you can network well, you can quickly talk your way into getting funding to do some medium-sized artworks. Once you get started on the gravy train your stuff can get bigger and bigger and more expensive as time passes. Of course if you have no practical skills at all you have an advantage in that you don’t have to buy any materials, and you can just do ‘conceptual’ pieces and have more of the money for yourself. Remember the people who actually hand out all this cash don’t have any aesthetic sense or practical skills either, but they do appreciate good bullshit when they hear it – that’s how they talked their way into their jobs. They recognise a kindred spirit…
Of course the trouble is that because all the skills are now in the field of bullshitting the art that goes on display doesn’t really stimulate or engage the ordinary humans who wander in out of the rain to see it, no matter how big it is – and art continues on its relentless downward slide into anodyne pretentiousness…
Oh dear, and this piece started off being so positive… Sorry dear reader, I got a bit carried away…

About Dave Whatt

Grumpy old surrealist artist, musician, postcard maker, bluesman, theatre set designer, and debonair man-about-town. My favourite tools are the plectrum and the pencil...
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2 Responses to But how big should it be?…

  1. claradoodles says:

    Oh this made me laugh! I agree with the so-called arty farty people thinking art is “better” if its bigger, but of course its all tosh, really. Good art is good art, regardless of size. I have seen the usual massive pieces in galleries and walk right by them. I adore the tiny little paintings that perhaps someone did, just to use up extra paint. I wish I could bullshit, personally, but I can’t. I’m cheap and cheerful person, and would rather buy art off the guy who sketches in watercolour on a street corner, than some toffy nosed creep who thinks a massive yellow square inside a red circle is “Art Worth Millions”. Having said that, if anyone wants to buy one of my abstracts…… :p

    • Dave Whatt says:

      I think being an artist is all about have a bit of perspective on the world and telling it like it is. I’ve never been able to bullshit either, and when I hear people at it I just want to laugh!
      Thank you Claradoodles!…

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