Can an artist learn more from doing multiple small works of art or one big one? This is a question that I’m asking myself currently, after pondering out lout to my wife that I may do a challenge to finish a painting a day for 30 days. Her very astute response was… “If you think you can learn something from it, go for it.”
I’m also wondering if this idea came up only after working on the same painting for six sessions in a row. Maybe I unconsciously want to satisfy a need to produce a large number of finished works. It is nice to see a pile of finished painting, it gives me a since of accomplishment. But, if that pile of paintings is full of repeated bad habits and ugly paintings then it becomes a waste of materials.
A work full of stuff but badly executed is wasteful. An incomplete sketch superbly executed is powerful! – Richard Schmid
What can I learn, or work on, with multiple small works?
1. Drawing with a brush
This is something I can always improve on. As long as I have subject matter which will challenge my drawing this could work. All I would have to do in include geometric items in every painting and it would be challenging.
2. Simplification of detail
I really need to work on this. Currently I find this to be one of the most difficult things for me to do. It’s had to explain also, but basically it’s all about making something look authentic with the least amount of brush strokes as possible. Carol Marine, a daily art blogger I follow, does this very well. Along with other well know master artists like Sargent, Henri, Sorolla.
3. Multiple compositions and subjects
Focus multiple paintings will force me to think of many different ways to arrange interesting compositions as well as how to deal with different subjects. It’s always nice to learn how to paint different textures, lighting conditions, relationships and drawing challenges.
What can I learn, or work on, with on large piece?
The ability to keep focus and interest on one piece of artwork for a long period of time is something that I have had barely any practice in. Just dealing with paint drying on canvas and other technically related items with a long term painting would be beneficial.
2. Composition and subject matter
Knowing that I’m going to spend many hours on one piece automatically forces me to think harder about composition and subject matter. The foundational elements of composition and subject matter must support the hours spent on one painting and it would be vastly disappointing to spend so long on a painting only to figure out at the end that the composition or subject is boring.
What do I feel like doing?
The above lists don’t by any means cover all the possibilities for learning. But, after looking at these few items I can see both lists are interchangeable, with longevity being the exception. I could work on drawing and simplification within a longer work and I can work on better composition and subject matter with multiple short works. So I guess in the end the question of one piece versus multiple comes down to what I feel like doing. I just have to decide then follow a clear goal.