Go Big or Go Home? (Or, In Celebration of Small Work)

Show of hands – how many you artists out there have ever been told, “You need to work larger.”?

For those of us who enjoy working small, I’m guessing 90% have.

In my time as an artist, I have made some larger works.  One of the largest includes a collage that measures 8″ X 24″.   But I’ve just always enjoyed working tiny!  I love lots of detail and when one works small, it packs an even greater punch.

Here’s a good one – very, very recently, I was told by someone in our art community that, “Maybe you should have a glass of wine or two before you work.  Loosen you up a little.”

And while I took that advice with a whole shaker of salt (i.e., not at all), it got me thinking about how great working small really is.  So I’ve comprised a list of all of the great reasons to work small.

1.  Salon-style walls are COOL. Almost every room in my house is comprised of art hung salon-style. When art is hung this way, you can buy so much more of it, and really become a collector.  Nearly all the artwork that hangs in our house is from local and regional artists with whom I have some sort of connection.  I love that each piece in my home means something! Here are some examples.

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2.  We don’t take up much space.  If space is an issue in your home or studio, working small is almost necessary.  But even when I had a HUGE room during my artist residency at Sheboygan North High School this past fall, I still worked small (but it was “bigger” than I normally work).

3.  ATCs!  Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) are how I fully got into collage.  I credit them for helping me find my “voice” and my style.  Even without them, though, I would’ve started out small (and stayed that way!).

4.  Made you look!  When a piece of artwork is small, it forces you to really look at it.  Take my piece at the top, for example.  That is a quarter-inch square collage.  A quarter-inch.  You simply cannot see it from far away (which was the whole point, as it was part of an exhibit called “Through Mia’s Eyes”, which I created to raise awareness for Stargardt’s Disease, from which my niece Mia suffers).  The viewer can really connect with a piece if they have to get closer.  I love that.  That’s when questions arise and real dialogue begins.

5.  Control issues.  Some artists just work better when their brush, pen, or scissors are held firmly in hand.  If my hand is just flinging about willy-nilly, I think my work looks sloppy.  Oh, don’t get me wrong – I LOVE work that’s loose and free!  It’s just not how I work.  Artists who work similarly – you are NOT alone.  Let’s raise our (controlled) hands in solidarity!

I hope this sheds some light on why some artists work small or even tiny.  Like I do!  And I will continue to enjoy working this way until I can no longer hold a brush in my tightly-gripped hand.  😀

Here are some more of my smallest works!

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