Dulltown, UK: Today’s existential angst is centred around the sound of the word colloidal.
No, really, I don’t think it should matter. You know, how big a piece of art is. There is a hell of range of sizes in art works isn’t there?
Right from titchy ‘miniature’ portraits, Faberge eggs, the world’s smallest bible about the size of a matchbox (I don’t think it makes it any easier to swallow though), people doing tiny sculptures on the heads of pins, or even having a go at doing Constable’s Hay Wain using individual atoms using a tunnelling electron microscope (TEM) – and then right up to that couple, a few decades ago, wrapping up whole islands in plastic and string. Me, I’m not sure if the islands looked better wrapped, or just left as they were…
Any island is quite big compared to a nice sheet of A3 paper though, and a sheet of A3 is quite big compared to a bunch of nicely arranged atoms.
Anyway… Yes, I remember a chap on the fine art course at college who was thrown out after one term because he would only do tiny paintings – I seem to recall that they were about 4″ x 3″ but very detailed; I thought it pretty unfair to chuck him out just for that!
Painters and sculptors demonstrate this ‘large-small’ thing pretty well. Let’s look at the logic of it. If you go around an amateur art show you’ll see that most of the work is of ‘medium size’. I think the reasons for this are:
1) You don’t want to spend money on the extra materials involved in doing large pieces.
2) You haven’t got an actual studio, so you probably work in your small spare bedroom with an old sheet covering the carpet, or on your dinner table in the evenings.
3) When the work is finished, if it is a big one, you have nowhere to store it, damn! Smaller flat ones can be slid away out of sight behind the settee.
4) There is more chance of a small one being accepted for local art shows – a great big one would take up the wall space for four or five more modest ones.
It also depends how well-off your friends are. It’s no good you doing six-foot paintings and sculptures and expecting your not-that-well-off friends to buy them and try to display them in their small semi-detached house, is it?
Doesn’t it seem sneaky that when you pop into a big gallery, perhaps the National Gallery, London, to have look at a few Leonardo or Michelangelo drawings, they turn out to be only about five or six inches in size, but are mounted in the middle of frames about two feet square? You can really see how valuable they are can’t you? Even if they do look a little bit scrappy and rather quickly dashed off…
I have done a few sculptures in my time, nothing big of course, usually made of hardwood and finished in black, about 18″ high -a ‘look very nice on a table or a shelf’ sort of size. Unlike drawings or pastels or prints, which are flat, and you can hide lots of them away in a folder, sculptures do take up a lot of space. For this reason I’m trying not to make any more of the bloody things, enjoyable though the process is. Oh, but then one day I find myself chiselling away at a lump of wood thinking, where the hell am I going to put this brute when it’s done? (Sculpture)
I suppose you know that you’ve ‘made it’ in the art world when you are quite happy to do a couple of ten-foot paintings and a few ten-foot sculptures, and know that you are not going to be stuck with them – Oh, was that the door bell? It’ll be someone with a hire van and big fat cheque in their outstretched podgy hand…
Then of course there is the question of how much to charge for your work – it would seem logical that small ones would be cheaper than big ones. Or, are we talking about the time spent on the thing? No, that doesn’t really work does it? A great big bright chuck-the-paint-around-from-a-bucket abstract might take twenty minutes, but a 10″ x 8″ intricate pen and ink drawing might take a couple of days of hunched careful work. Should the small one be more expensive? Anyway, we all know that there is no logic involved at all when art and money mix.
A chap I was at college with many years ago recently asked me how much I would charge for one of my charcoal drawings, on paper, about 30″ x 20″. I replied that I didn’t really bother trying to sell them anymore, but the last one I did sell to someone a few years back went for £150. His mouth fell open, his eyes bulged, and he took a breath, and said, ‘How much do you charge per hour then?…’ I think he thought that it was too much – skinflint!…