Going Large, Going Tiny: #painting


The Ship of State Attempts to Fly_by Jean Vengua
The Ship of State Attempts to Fly, Acrylics/collage on canvas, 18 x 27 x 2 inches. Jean Vengua,

I live in a small (almost tiny), one-bedroom house, which I share. There’s no garage, and no “real” storage area, aside from a tiny hall closet and small bedroom closet, both stuffed with clothes. We live in what was once a priest’s cottage, so it was designed to be spartan; although, because Father Farrell was also a poet and wide reader, he added a lot of built-in shelving for books (a nephew of his once told me that the shelves on the front wall were once floor-to-ceiling, although a later owner took those out and replaced them with a window).

I’ve been doing smallish-to-medium size paintings, because that’s all we have room for. And I’ve also been thinking about how I can do larger paintings in this tiny space. The answer is: not very well, although I’ve figured out a way to go larger using paper, instead of canvas, which I can then store in a diy large “portfolio” made out of two found cardboard pieces that are large enough to sandwich largish paper works between them. And I think it’s good training for me to go larger, to see what works. I’m certainly learning about what doesn’t work w/large painting.

A is for Abdera
“A is for Abdera,” 5 x 4 x 1/2 inches [sold], Jean Vengua
On the other hand, I realize that I’ve been giving tiny paintings a bad rap, because I see so many that appeal to our love of teeny/cutesy and are therefore (to me) unappealing. However, today I recalled my college art class days, when I studied with Donald Roy Thompson. One day, he assigned us to do teeny paintings and sketches on paper, and asked us to try to make them work with just several strokes of a brush — and the results were surprising and beautiful. I still have some of those teeny paintings (not the ones shown here, which are fairly recent).

tiny painting by Jean Vengua
“Cutups,” 5 x 4 x 1/2 inches, Jean Vengua

Like the poet’s haiku, or hay(na)ku, there is a place for the small, for brevity; and I think one of its functions can be — to surprise.

P.S. And to be honest, I’m really rather selfishly concerned that it primarily surprises me, in the process of making art.

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