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Working from Studies

January 20, 2011

In yesterday’s post I was musing again about small vs. large paintings. In the comments, Donna Baek asked if I would talk about pieces I’ve done that started out as small works or studies. Donna expressed the problem that working intuitively and spontaneously doesn’t lend itself to planning larger works based on smaller ones.

My reply was that I, too, prefer to work intuitively rather than with a plan in mind. But sometimes I come upon an idea in a small scale that I think should be done larger, that I’m compelled to try. And I agree it’s a very tricky thing trying to make it “look” spontaneous. That’s the hardest part.

I need to mention that in the case of commission work, it’s often necessary to do a mockup and then a larger work from that.

Donna asked me if I could show some examples where I’ve translated from small to large.

First, this is a completely fabricated digital idea I had for a painting:

. . . and here is the finished painting — a triptych that is 48 x 84 inches!

I like the painting much more than the digital image, because it is filled with active brush strokes.

Here is another example. A client saw this digital painting and wanted something like it:

And this is the finished painting, 36 inches square:

I liked this one, but there was a certain fluidity in the original digital image that I wasn’t able to reproduce on canvas. That’s because the digital version was blurry on purpose. In order to reproduce that I would have needed to use an airbrush.

Here is a commission that I did for a client who wanted three panels the size of closet doors, or 24 x 84 inches each. First, the digital mockup, which was based on a cropped scan of three of my existing paintings:

And here are the three completed panels, installed:

I was very happy with these three, and so was the client.

Another commission that comes to mind is this one. First the digital mockup. I sent this picture to the client showing the digital image with their living room colors:

(I love the puppy dog!)

And here is the final installed painting:

I feel that almost every time I try to re-create an image on a larger scale, I like the resulting work better than the concept.

Note: There’s another example, in yesterday’s post, of a 4″ monotype that was the concept for a 60″ painting.

The bottom line is that it’s not easy to make a painting look spontaneous if it’s planned out in advance. But practice makes perfect — someday, I hope!

Please readers, send me your pictures of ideas you have translated from small to large. I would love seeing them, and if you give me permission, I will post them on the blog.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 20, 2011 6:08 pm

    Martha what an amazing series of work showing the studies and then the paintings. I have never been inclined towards commissioned work either in my painting or my photography. I find I work best in the moment and have stuck with that. However I sometimes use one of my photographs as a loose reference for painting. This usually happens when I am not completely satisfied that my photograph has captured what I wanted to express but not always.

    Your post has inspired me to further explore my own self-imposed boundary around doing commissioned work. Great post as always Martha!

    • January 21, 2011 6:54 am

      Terrill, the worst that can happen with a commission is to have a client keep asking you to tweak the finished work. I’ve never had that situation, but have heard of it. The huge percentage of them go very well.

      I know what you mean about photographs as references. I want so much to abstract some of my landscape pictures. Just not sure how to proceed. I want them to be very loose interpretations.

  2. Sandra permalink
    January 20, 2011 8:39 pm

    What a great post. And I love your finished works which do far more for me than the digital concept. The paintings to me are more “human”, and I love the added colour details. One of the topics on yesterday’s “About Painting” was doing studies on small canvases for practice and this really appealed to me. I have to plan my works ahead but find that doing it on paper just isn’t the same, so intend to give this idea a try. It will be good practice anyway without wasting large canvases and lots of paint if I throw away some of the results!

    • January 21, 2011 6:55 am

      Glad you liked them, Sandra – thanks. I think you definitely would love dong some small studies. You might like them as finished works!

  3. January 21, 2011 3:21 pm

    I’m in LOVE with the large triptych. LOVE!

  4. Jennifer Ressmann permalink
    January 23, 2011 1:14 pm

    Hi Martha
    What a great way to plan out a piece! Fun!

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