Firehouse Gallery

Painting Size Matters – WSO Convention Lessons Learned

WSO Convention in Medford, OR

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to attend the Watercolor Society of Oregon’s (WSO) convention in Medford OR.  It was an action packed weekend that left me dizzy with ideas and lessons learned.  I met many new people,  new faces, new names.  It was wonderful.

Linda Baker (AWS/NWS), Juror

Ms. Linda Baker was our Juror and guest speaker.  On Saturday she guided us through a critique of nearly 40 paintings.  On Sunday, she honored us with a lecture and demonstration of her approach to painting.  Linda was funny, articulate and insightful.  It was a memorable and educational experience.

Art Exhibition Opening

The Convention coincided with the Opening of the WSO Fall Transparent Exhibition.  Openings are exciting and enlightening.  They are the culmination of a lot of work too!  Over 300 paintings were submitted and 80 were accepted.  One of them, happily, was my piece “I Can’t Hear You” (please see below).

I found it educational to look the paintings and the installation in the gallery.  Naturally, I am thinking about how my work feels in a gallery setting along with approximately 80 paintings.  Does it speak to the audience?  Does it show well?  What can I learn?

Big or Little:  Size Matters

One thing that was obvious is that size does matter.  My painting was among the smaller paintings.  While not all award winning paintings were large, I could see and feel that size matters.  I’m thinking that the larger (22×30 inches) paintings feel more open, inviting, expansive or embracing to the viewer.  The statement is public, it has impact just by size.  The painting says “I’m here, look at me”.

The smaller paintings, perhaps 15×11 inches or less in size, make a more intimate, closed or private statement.  Oddly enough, size can seem to put distance between the statement and the viewer.  I found that artists can counter the closed feeling by using simple, bold shapes.

What Are You Trying To Say?

I’m sure I’ve read that question before.  It’s a question one has to learn to ask themselves.  The size of the painting, and art in general, is linked to the statement we make.  Simply stated: we notice size and it matters.

Bottomline:  I need to paint bigger!  Simple enough “take away”, don’t you think?  The next step is do it, followed by making it work.

PS.  My painting earned an “Award of Distinction”.  Having a nice ribbon by the painting communicates something, don’t you think?

I Can't Hear You

8 thoughts on “Painting Size Matters – WSO Convention Lessons Learned”

  1. Thank you for summarizing your thoughts and conclusions from the convention.

    It was a really fun and I always love rubbing elbows with other talented artists. The artists in WSO have been and will always be very supportive of one another. We are lucky to have been at the convention and able to take in all that was offered.

    Congratulations on your award. My husband, Joe, commented how much he really liked your painting and he has become quite the “critiguer” having attended most of the conventions in the past 9 years.

    Keep on doing what you are doing. I’m not sure if you need to paint larger but it is always worth a try to see how you feel.


    1. Hi Diana, Thank you for the comment and the compliment! It will be interesting working larger. It seems every time you change something, you have new problems to work out. It’s hard work trying to be bold. Again, thanks!

  2. Becki Trachsel Hesedahl

    Thanks Margaret. I have been doing a lot of 11×14 and 16×20 but decided I want to get back to full sheet w/c. Just today inventoried my stash of 300# paper, frames and mats for the big ones! Thanks for the encouragement.

  3. It was nice to finally meet in person, Peggy! Congratulations on the award and your wonderful painting. I do agree that when competing, size matters. But I also appreciate the more intimate paintings.

    1. Hi Ruth, Thank you, it was wonderful to finally meet in person! I appreciate the compliment, the award was quite the surprise. Do you suppose context makes a difference with size? Or, environment? This past summer I saw a photographer’s solo exhibition where all the photographs were 8×10. The images were architectural landscapes. The small size seemed to be a barrier for me as the viewer, as if the artist was pulling away. It was quite startling. Maybe it was the subject matter. In any case, the effect has prompted me to think about size and how it relates. Thank you for your input.

  4. I think you have a valid point. Certainly the size/price tag ratio is a big one in this economy. Collectors rarely differentiate between acrylic, water colour and oil when they get a positive emotional response and it’s that response that sells a painting. They also don’t seem to differentiate between expensive frames and unframed canvas wraps. As we know as artists all these things make a huge difference to our bottom line. It’s easier to sell small, unframed and even un-matted works on the internet but the price must be right. For those that sell mainly through galleries and exhibitions it is very important to have impact and as long as you have the storage I would certainly go big but keep the price tag as low as you possibly can, at least until you have strong momentum and/or when the economy turns around.

    Thank you for your interesting blog post.

    1. Hi Sea Dean, thank you for visiting my blog and posting a comment. Storage does become an issue, doesn’t it? It sounds like you have had experience and purposely thought about size. It is interesting how something so simple can be important. Thank you for the compliment.

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