Working Small

Leakage, Russell Steven Powell oil, pencil, and duct tape on canvas, 5x7

Leakage, oil, pencil, and duct tape on canvas, 5×7

I GENERALLY PREFER painting on large canvases. I find it challenging, with opportunity for both fine detail and grand gestures.

The large canvas is ideal for my physical style of painting. But I recently purchased a set of five canvases at a bargain price descending in size from 16×20 inches to 5×7, including an 8×10. Usually the smallest I paint is 11×14.

Coast Line, Russell Steven Powell oil on canvas, 8x10

Coast Line, oil on canvas, 8×10

I often include scenes within scenes on my larger canvases, but the sharply defined 8×10 or 5×7 rectangle imposes strict limits. The smaller area requires a different mindset than a larger canvas, with a narrower space for narrative, a need for finer motor control, and a different set of brushes.

The last time I worked this small was in the summer of 2004, during a week-long workshop in abstract painting led by Vermont artist Doug Trump. We painted all day inside an old mill building on scraps of canvas board, mat, wood — whatever we could get our hands on, experimenting with different surfaces and materials. Some of these were even smaller than 5×7.

We painted the building’s messy industrial interior, we painted from imagination, we painted each other. A few of the smallest works are presented here.

Untitled, Russell Steven Powell acrylic and pencil on paper, 4-1/2x5-1/2

Untitled, acrylic and pencil on paper, 4-1/2×5-1/2

Untitled, Russell Steven Powell acrylic and pencil on wood, 4x3

Untitled, acrylic and pencil on wood, 4×3

 

Easel, Russell Steven Powell acrylic and pencil on mat board, 5-1/2x4

Easel, acrylic and pencil on mat board, 5-1/2×4

Table, Russell Steven Powell acrylic and pencil on mat board, 3x4

Table, acrylic and pencil on mat board, 3×4

Bow, Russell Steven Powell acrylic and pencil on paper, 5-1/2x4-1/2

Bow, acrylic and pencil on paper, 5-1/2×4-1/2

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