May 5, 2011

Small Paintings, Large Scale

Blue Bucket, Barnet, Vermont, 1998, egg tempera on panel, 12 x 12 inches.

The paintings on parchment I've been making for over a year are indeed very small: they were primarily inspired by medieval manuscript paintings, particularly the Hours of Catherine of Cleves, exhibited at the Morgan Library and viewable online here. But although the works are small in size, they do not seem small as I work on them because the forms in relation to the size of the panel are fairly large. Scale is a word of relationships; my tiny paintings have relatively large scale. To make this more clear I thought I'd show you a couple of earlier landscape paintings, images full of very small details. We see the large form of the blue bucket and culvert in the foreground, travel back on a curving road to a piece of logging equipment and back again to a tree covered hill in the distance, all this described with precision.

White Hillside, Barnet, Vermont, 1998, egg tempera on panel, 9 x 14 5/8 inches, (with added black lines to illustrate size comparison).

Here is another landscape, with foreground and background full of visual incident. I drew black lines on top of the painting to show, in the lower left corner, the approximate size of several of my recent works on parchment. Nothing I am doing now comes close to the level of detail in that section of plastic covered hay bales and tree.

Detail of Blue Bucket above, Plus Minus below, each 5 x 6 inches.

Finally, here is a direct comparison of size and scale. Perhaps now you can see why I don't feel that my paintings are so small after all.


  1. Those small paintings are larger than life. Love em.

  2. clear as always:
    you mean what you say
    and show what you mean
    thanks again for the link to the Hours MS

  3. Thanks for helping me think about scale in this way. I have been thinking about scale in the extreme (outer space/inner space), but here is an avenue that is more accessible . The work is gorgeous.

  4. thanks, john and Kim.
    Scale is very interesting to think about, but kind of impossible to show in reproduction, unless you do the direct comparison as I've done here.

  5. Scale is a really difficult concept for many people to understand. We used lots of games to help us figure out the size of rocks and structures in our garden because designing outdoor spaces really gets confusing. I like thinking about scale on your scale, as it were.

  6. Very interesting post. Scale is so important. You get a lot of detail in all your work. Took me a while to "see" the last image as 2 works. Yes, brilliant, Altoon!