10 Big Reasons for Painting Small

Some artists like to paint big, and some like painting small.  Either way is just fine.  Painting small does have some advantages, and below are some reasons you may want to consider when determining what size your next piece should be.

painting small

Study for “Transition”, Craig Shillam, 8” x 10″, oil

10 Big Reasons for Painting Small

A collector recently bought a painting of mine after quite some deliberation. What was the hold up? He didn’t know where to put it. No room in the house, not the right space for it in the lake place, but yet he really wanted the painting. It was a bigger piece, but not huge. I know this scenario is not uncommon.

What’s in a size? Maybe bigger is better, or maybe sometimes you just need to go small for a variety of reasons. The main thing is just get on with it, isn’t it? So let’s get on with reasons for painting small.

  1. The Downsizing of the American Home. The day of the McMansion and whopping home equity loans are behind us for the most part. The trend is smaller homes and more apartments. Less square footage to hang paintings for those people who might like to buy original art.  There are  most certainly still the 10,000 square foot custom home, but not like before. This trend is not the only reason for painting small, and it is not a reason to stay away from producing large works.It is however a trend to pay attention to.
  2. Fewer Materials.  Painting small means fewer materials used which equals less capital investment in a given painting. This is pretty obvious, but has to be mentioned here as the cost of producing any painting, small or large is often ignored.
  3. Less Time. By investing less time in completing smaller paintings, you would be able to complete more paintings.  You could explore new thoughts and directions in your work. This is a great way to experiment or work in a series, etc.
  4. Affordability.   More people can afford a $250, or $500 painting, than a $2500 or $5000 painting. A small painting can be your introduction to new collectors who may like original art, but can’t or won’t spend larger amounts of money on it. Yet.
  5. Transportation & Shipping. Smaller painting, smaller box, less weight, less shipping cost to that gallery, show, or collector.
  6. Less Money Spent on Framing. Yes, another obvious reason for painting small. While we are at it, use standard sizes when you can so you can buy pre made frames. Whether it be a frame shop, art store, on-line, catalog, or doing it yourself, you will almost always save money on framing by using standard sizes.
  7. Variety. Adding smaller sized paintings to your repertoire or your next show will provide more variety for those that come to view your work. How many people do you know that have blank walls just waiting for the right painting? Maybe you know some, I don’t know any. Having a few smaller works might just allow a new buyer to get a taste, and hopefully come back down the road for something else. Variety in size and price is not a bad thing.
  8. Print Substitute. Some painters are painting small works or studies as a substitute for prints. There is very little overhead, framing or matting is optional, and the artist gets more painting in. If you were planning a big painting and wanted to do some small studies, there certainly would be nothing wrong with offering some or all of them for sale at some point.
  9. Promotion. Using smaller paintings for promotion makes sense because of some of the things already mentioned above. Easy to carry, ship, display, and less expensive to frame if you are doing some creative marketing or outreach. If damage or theft were to occur, losing a small painting would hurt a whole lot less than losing a large one.
  10. Gifts & Donations. The thought of giving a large painting away for a gift or donation might be a bit much for most artist, but it is certainly not unheard of. Painting small from time to time allows you to have the flexibility to be somewhat generous on a smaller scale if you should choose to do so. Think about a friend, relative, or charity that is close to your heart. If your going to give a gift or make a donation anyway, might a small painting make a bigger impact than a check or a store-bought item?

Painting Small for the Right Reasons

Painting small isn’t for everybody and it doesn’t need to be all the time. Paint what ever size you want, whatever your vision is. I’m just sayin’ there are sometimes when you could or need to go small. By the way, the collector mentioned above did buy the painting and hung it in his son’s house!

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  1. Thank you for posting. I’ve been experienced some of thes topics you mention. May I add the sotrage one? I mean, when you can’t sell all of your work immediately, your walls will tell you. Specially if you are painting big.


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