I was given this small 12 x 12 canvas by the University of Maine at Presque Isle's Art Club and asked to do a painting on it for their upcoming fundraising auction. I always find the square format to be challenging in terms of composition because it's such a stable shape. I've known artists who use the square format almost exclusively and I've known artists who avoid it completely. I don't recall ever intentionally stretching a square canvas, although I have done several paintings that are almost squares, e.g. 30 x 32 or 34 x 36. I like to create a little bit of tension by having the dimensions be unequal. I have even consciously arranged the forms within the frame of the picture in such a way as to make the image look like a square, even when it isn't.
This image is based on a drawing that I did a few weeks ago. I was planning to develop this idea into a larger painting, but in a vertical rectangle format on a larger canvas. I will probably still do that, as soon as I finish the painting that I'm working on at the moment (which is turning out to be one of the most difficult things I've ever undertaken, but that's a subject for another post...). Creating multiple paintings of the same theme, but with variations on the composition and/or color scheme, has always been appealing to me. The size of a canvas is also a very important consideration because the scale of the marks that I make changes relative to the size of the painting and larger paintings allow for viewing both at a distance as well as up close. When making a large painting, I always try to make the painting work from a distance, but I think there should be a lot of smaller scale things going on that provide visual interest when the viewer gets in close to the painting.
Oftentimes, when I am outside drawing I don't even think about composition, preferring instead to draw everything that I see and then compose several pictures from the same subject once I return to my studio. I have several strips of black paper lying around the studio and I use these to compose images by placing them on all four sides of a drawing. I then move the strips around as I explore various compositional possibilities. I played around with placing the strips of black paper around my drawing of this subject and found this square composition, which I think works well. Staggering the horizon creates a slight diagonal and makes for a more dynamic arrangement than if the horizon went straight across.
This painting will be included in the UMPI Art Club's 12 x 12 auction on Friday April 6 at Sorpresso Café in Presque Isle, ME.
I am a full time artist, originally from Massachusetts, currently living in northern Maine. I work primarily in oils and pastel, and occasionally watercolor. I offer instruction in drawing and painting at my studio, which is in an old renovated potato barn. Please feel free to view samples of my work (You can see a larger version of each picture if you click on it.) and leave a comment if you are so inclined. Be sure to click the "Older Posts" button at the bottom to see more work. I don't always have time to respond to comments, but if you wish to correspond with me, you can e-mail me at email@example.com