Monday, September 13, 2010

5 Good Reasons To Consider Working Small

     I like small paintings.  They are intimate, and require close contact in order to engage with and observe them.  Watercolor, generally speaking, gets a new set of rules once you entertain large sheets of paper.  Washes start to dry before you can cover the given area.  Large paint puddles and big brushes become your tools.  Also don’t forget that large paper requires an art table at least as big as your sheet size, and larger than sheet size is even better.  I’m not knocking large paintings, just be aware of these factors.
Inspired By Chardin
8 x 5

     There are several factors that small paintings have in their favor and that I feel make small paintings a plus.  Here are my top 5:
     1.  Small paintings make you simplify.   From an artist’s perspective, small paintings require seeing and simplifying larger masses, instead of getting caught up in rendering detail.  This is a plus for artists like myself.  If you force yourself to use bigger brushes in a small format, your paintings will have a unity to them.
     2.  They open the door for a new collector.   Many artists seek to open the door to major works by adding giclees or lithographs.  I have found that many collectors would rather stick with originals for the same price as a print.  I try to have several small works for every show, just for these collectors.
      Many artists have giclee prints that range from $500-$2500, and they are often sold through galleries or retail shops.  Many collectors, myself included, would much rather purchase a small original in this same price range directly from the artist.
     This is a generalization, but for the most part, I have found print buyers and original buyers are two different breeds.  Print buyers usually want a larger piece for less money.  People who buy originals are drawn to the painting that elicits an emotional connection.
Reach Around
7 x 4
     3.  They are easier to sell.   This sounds a bit misleading, but the truth is, at any given event there will be more people that can afford to purchase a small work.  Whether the deciding factor is the price point, or the ability to hang small works (as determined by space limitations), most artists can cover the spread with small affordable paintings.
     4.  Collectors can always make room for a small painting.  Even major collectors with large works in their collection will make a move on a small painting. 
     Two years ago, I had the opportunity to enjoy a major collection in Kerrville, Texas.  This gentleman’s collection probably had 100 or more large paintings hanging.  My favorite painting was a small Wyeth painting tucked away in a corner.  Don’t ever discount the power of a well-executed small painting.
     5.  Small paintings are easier to travel with.  For those artists making their living on the road, small works make your job infinitely easier.  They are easier to travel, pack, load and unload.  I always suggest having a couple of large works for the big gun that might show.  But it’s easier to squeeze in one or two large works, if you have a majority of small to medium paintings in your inventory.
     So I hope I’ve proven that bigger is not always better.

All content and images © Mark Kohler Studio.


  1. Mark,

    What a treat to see the first painting we purchased from you (Reach Around). How coincidental that you used that painting to illustrate how a great small painting can open the door to the rest of your work!

    Just last week Jay and I were walking around the house looking at your paintings, stopped at that painting and reflected on how much we loved that work in particular . You are definitely correct in your assessment that it lead to us being collectors of your work, and we are very pleased to be just that.

    Say hi to Pam and I hope all is well with you both.


  2. Janie,

    Thanks for sharing the memories. This is still one of my favorite paintings and I'm glad you can still appreciate it after all these years. And I'm glad it led to a really good friendship...the most important thing of all.

    Tell Randy for us, and y'all keep in touch!