Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Is Bigger Better?

It seems to me that in the art world, in general, people seem to think bigger artwork is better.  If you have been to a Quilt National exhibition, you may have noticed that there are very few small works.

In the past, I have also seen submission requirements for an exhibition that list the piece can be no smaller than a certain size.

Even at the Boise Art Museum, the Collectors Forum group will, more often than not, pick the largest piece from a selection of artworks to purchase for the museum, much to the chagrin of me and the curatorial staff who have to, then, figure out a way to shuffle artwork in an already packed to the gills vault to store another large piece.  And the big artwork is not always the best artwork or the one that will get "the most bang for their buck," so to speak.

Why does bigger seem better?  Obviously, a big piece has more impact, even if it is not the greatest, because it is so "in your face."  Someone is going to notice it right away when they walk into an exhibition just because of it's size.  It can be seen from very far away.

I am not saying that all large artwork is not great.  There are amazing, fantastic large works.  What I am saying is that it often seems to me that there is a general bias that bigger artwork is better. But just because it is big, doesn't necessarily make it good.

I think that sometimes smaller artworks get overlooked, and well, it's easy to do that because they are small.  In the right settings, small artworks can have a big impact as well.  The viewer has to get closer to view them.  This draws one in and creates a more intimate setting for exploring the work.

Recently, I added a new artwork to my collection which is very small.

This is a wood engraving by artist, Andy English, who lives in England.  I discovered his work on the internet, probably through some link leading to another link, etc.  As a wood engraver, most of his works are on a small scale.  I really like his work and when I saw he had some of these small Christmas cards in his Etsy shop, I bought one.  The detail is amazing and hard to believe, even when I am holding this right up to my face. This is an original print, just not a limited edition one.

I have some other small works in my collection, too.  I have lots of small original prints from the years I have been participating in the Leftovers Print Exchange (where the maximum size of the paper for the print is 5" x 7").

Years ago, I also was lucky enough to have the winning bid on an artwork by local artist, Lisa Pisano.  It is an amazing piece of a bird that is made up of minuscule pieces of dried leaves that have been cut into tiny rectangles and put together like a mosaic.  This isn't a very good picture but, hopefully, it will give you an idea of what I am describing.

Local artist, Rachel Teannalach, works everyday on a small 3"x 3" painting in her  tinyExpanse 365 work.  When displayed all together, they have a great impact, but also that intimacy that comes from having to get up close to see the individual images (go to her website to see an image of them all together).

Here is one of Rachel's tiny Expanses for this current 365.  You can follow along with her everyday painting on her Facebook page.

#22/365 by Rachel Teannalach
(picture re-posted with permission of artist)

Another local artist I know that works small is Marilyn Cosho.  She makes whimsical tiny fairy chairs from twigs and other items.

Do you know any artists that work on a small scale?  Please share links in the comments.  I would love to see them.


Sandy said...

Oh you would love the pieces done by Lorraine Loots from South Africa.
Her project is Called 365 Postcards for Ants!

Rachel Teannalach said...

As a lover of tiny paintings and sculptures I really enjoyed your blog, Lisa! Check out also the exquisite 2"x2" paintings by Nolina Burge of Bellevue, Idaho ( and the small land and cityscapes of Boise artist Samuel Paden (

Rachel Teannalach said...

I also love your weekly squares, and would love to see how they all come together!

Gail Baar said...

It was funny that I just read Elizabeth Barton's blog post about making a small quilt, and her reasons for doing so. Then I went to your comments about small art! I think in general, no matter what the size, people don't give art the space it needs to speak to the viewer.