Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012
Mostly, I work small.
I make paintings as small as 2.75″ square, and the vast majority of my work in the past couple of years has been 5″x7″. Nothing that takes up much space on a bookshelf, let alone fills a whole wall.
I think life is in the details. There’s grand, sweeping panoramas and grand, sweeping gestures and big harry audacious goals, sure. But there’s as much beauty in a single leaf or flower petal, in paying for the person’s toll behind you, or in crossing an item off your to-do list as there is in the big things. People overlook it, just like the introverts get overlooked for the extroverts, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes you’ve got to set audacious goals, but in the long run the success or failure of the big things depends on crossing all the little ones off your list, one at a time.
I like the physicality of working small. Though my masseur and my eyesight might disagree, there’s something very satisfying to me about drawing Many Tiny Lines, or using the Smallest Brush Ever. It’s one of the reasons I love my salt paintings, because they’re filled with miniscule details that sort of make themselves, and then beg for me to add to them or work off them or just appreciate them.
It’s micro-chaos being turned into something beautiful.
This isn’t that thing about the butterfly in Asia making Tornadoes in the Midwest, either. Small things are just that, small, but it’s what they can do that interests me. The effect of one cheerful smile in a sea of frowns, of holding the door for someone with full hands, or inversely of shutting the door in their face and leaving them to flounder.
Putting something unexpectedly beautiful somewhere that you have to notice it makes it more of a surprise, makes the smile linger a little longer. I absolutely adored the 365 Jars project, even though it never wrapped up, because it brought small, surprise art into so many people’s lives.
So, really, why small?
For all those reasons above. For practical reasons, because it’s easier to finish in time for daily posts, and it’s easier to store and ship and frame.
But most of all, because it works for me. The path from inspiration to art is smoother for me when I work small, because tiny work with details you have to peer at to discern just flows better than big, bold, and obvious most of the time.
And yeah, I’m a lot like that with people, too.