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December 2008

December 2008 -- Wings

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  • EMG News:
    News for December
  • Behind the Art:
    Griffin In Flight
  • Artist Spotlight:
    Chesley Bonestell
  • Myths and Symbols:
    Wings of Wonder
  • Wombat Droppings:
    Size Matters

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  • Poem: Winged

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  • Tomb of the King: Pandoryn, Part 1
  • Falheria: Wings


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  • Size Matters
    Wombat Droppings
    by Ursula Vernon

    Ladies and gentlemen -
    No, wait, scratch that. Gentlemen may wish to leave. Ladies, stick around. I am about to let you in on a secret of the art world that, odds are good, you already knew.

    Gentlemen, I'm serious.

    Look, you have no one to blame but yourselves, guys.

    Still here? Fine. Can't say I didn't warn you.

    Size matters.

    Not like THAT - although it sort of does, but that's probably another column, perhaps in an entirely different zine - but artistically. The size at which you work is important.

    It's an obvious statement, but it's one that I think we lose sight of, particularly all of us internet junkies, where all the art becomes monitor sized, and whether you're working ten feet on a side or six inches tall, it becomes equalized and compressed and smooshed out into 72 dpi and maybe 800 pixels high.

    But size does matter. Size matters for a couple of reasons. First of all, there's the impact of the original. There are some times when a tiny, jewel-like little painting has a serious punch. And there's nothing quite like a monstrous wall-covering painting either, for sheer IMPACT.

    Being a perverse sort, I usually find that my available workspace varies in direct proportion to the paintings I want to do. Give me a vast, well-lit space, and I will do tiny little ACEOs (artist trading cards - 3.5 x 2.5, and remind me to do a column on those sometime). But give me a cramped, teeny-tiny one-bedroom apartment with no storage space, and I will itch for 36 x 48 canvases, things I can barely even fit in my car, and massive, boldly colored paintings. (I lived for several months with a giant painting of a rooster on the easel in my living room, because I was in about 600 sq feet and had nowhere else to put it.)

    But size matters in a different way, too. Obviously, the bigger you work, the more detail you can cram in, so there's a certain minimum size in order to get everything in that you want to get in. But there's also an upper limit to this, as I discovered, yet again, a few weeks ago, when I tried to do a 12 x 24 piece with an extreme close-up on a torso in one half of the painting.

    It'll probably never get done. I got it about halfway painted and realized that I had simply run out of things to say in the space. It was TOO big - 3/4 life size or so - and I just had all this empty space that wanted to be skin tone, and I was running out of stuff to fill it with. The skin had to be interesting, it couldn't just be a flat splortch of peach, and while I had some interesting textures going, trying to fill all that space with them made it repetitive and just'not working.

    Size matters. It's a good composition, and I may try it again at half that size some day, but I learned that I just couldn't fill that much space with skin. Another artist might be able to, but not this one.

    The problem with art is that we don't learn anything once. Either our memories are shoddy or our egos are large or something, but we keep on having to re-learn the same lessons over and over again, just in case.

    Ursula Vernon
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