At Scale

A piece of advise about art was given to me so long ago now, I don’t remember whether it’s really true or whether it was something I actually made up. In my mind’s eye, it was a tidbit passed along by my first sculpture teacher at Memphis College of Art, Bill Willims. Whether it was real or not, over the years I’ve found that it’s a simple piece of advice that’s proven itself to be true…

4″ by 4″ charcoal

“If you are curious whether a sculpture design you are considering is any good, using your imagination, shrink it down to jewelry size and if it’s able to draw your eye in, capture your attention, and make you feel wonder, it might be good.” 
I put a lot of trust in this simple litmus over the decades. While it seemed that making a design bigger usually resulted in most people being outright impressed, (deservedly or not), reducing the size of a design requires that the design of the form itself needs to be strong. The details of a design won’t matter much if the play of the shapes that make up a form don’t first draw in the eye. A successful piece of sculptural jewelry stands out across a room as well as improves in readability as the veiwer comes closer. 
Moving this thinking over to drawings. Drawing on operatic scale is fun and easily grabs attention, but I want to move to an intimate scale of 5″ or under. Like the example of the jewelry before, the challenge is creating attraction at a distance that resolves in to a readable image as the viewer gets nearer. It’s a shifting balance of abstracted form and image content.
The piece shown above is an illistrated go at the concept. It’s a 4″ by 4″ figure study that, from a distance, appears to be a grouping of unrelated forms. Close in and it resolves into a figure. Even closer in and the diversity of line quality returns the drawing back to feeling like an abstract.
A small drawing on a sheet of paper made to function at a range of distances found in a small private room rather than the scale of a gallery wall.
(PS Did you like how that nipple got dropped right in the center of the drawing? Loved it!)

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