In a prior blog, I wrote about my teacher at the University of Maryland that had me do a huge self-portrait in pointillism (6ft by 8ft). In the project before that we were all assigned to copy a famous artist’s work in miniature (postcard size) in oil. This contrast of scale taught me that I enjoyed working both with the smallest of brushes on a small canvas and also creating something much larger. It also taught me about the impact that both have on the viewer.
All these years later we still have my two little postcard size paintings that I produced in my painting class. I chose to copy two of James McNeil Whistler’s paintings. We have them on display in our home on tiny wooden easels.
The Thames on Ice painted by Whistler in 1860 was my first postcard painting. Since it was so small it didn’t take long. It was fun to shrink everything down and still try and capture all of the details.
The Thames River rarely froze over but the year after Whistler moved to London (1859) was a particularly harsh winter. Whistler painted this piece in just three days! It now resides in the Freer Gallery at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Asian Art.
My second postcard size painting of a Whistler painting was entitled Caprice in Purple and Gold: The Golden Screen. Whistler was greatly influenced by Japanese art. Bought by Charles Freer, this painting is also part of the Whistler collection at the Freer Gallery in Washington, DC.
The time has flown by. I’ve painted over two hundred paintings now. I still enjoy working large and small. My teacher’s lessons left me with an appreciation for scale. When I go to museums I am fascinated by Dutch miniatures and mesmerized by huge Frederic Edwin Church landscape murals.
Both large and small works of art can leave lasting impressions on art lovers! Below are the two original Whistler paintings that I worked from.