I've been working on some new small paintings on single panels, and my e-penpal, Patty Oblack
asked me in an email about the difference between single panel paintings and those that are done as part of larger compositions. Her question made me think about why I like to do these single-panel paintings (usually they are small to medium-sized)--and about what role they play in my creative process.
In my multiple panel paintings, the energy of the painting comes from the contrasts and complements within the whole composition, so my emphasis is on the way the panels interact and work together. Although I paint each panel individually, with concern for its own integrity, I'm also thinking about what it will offer a larger composition. In the end, I want the multiple panel paintings to be more than the sum of their parts.
In a single panel painting, the energy of the painting, its movement and direction, are all contained within the boundaries of one panel. The way that the eye is directed, the need for emphasis to carry the work must be considered. It is its own little world. This is a different approach for me, more disciplined I think (of course, none of this is a revelation to the majority of painters who work on single panels!) It involves art muscles that I don't wish to let atrophy.
Anyway, I think these small single panels strengthen my compositional skills and awareness--like basic drawing skills, I want to maintain and practice my ability to work this way. Besides, these small paintings also tend to be more immediately rewarding than the big multiple panel works (which involve endless re-arrangements!)and in that way are enjoyable and pleasing to make.
Of course, few things are really straightforward in the art process, and often a panel evolves one way or another, from part of a larger painting to single life, or the other way around. It's all in the mix, and always a challenge!
(The image above is from November, a 6"x6" painting called Structure
, included in the recent Gems show at Wilde Meyer Gallery