As you know, each time I begin a new project, I struggle with this issue. Partly it is a question of where the painting is to be hung. While paintings for small rooms usually have smaller dimensions, optimal viewing distance is not automatically a function of image size, although the two are certainly related. Occasionally one comes across a huge canvas with infinite detail or a tiny canvas with bold strokes.
The image size in relation to the subject's size is another issue. Georgia O'Keefe famously enlarged botanical painting to great effect. An enormous face would be another matter, although I have gone as far as doubling dimensions, as in this portrait of Jon.
Right now I am painting owls. Half way into a portrait of a barn owl, I am wondering if it should have been smaller; we have a close friend, Tom, who has always lived on a farm and who used to see them frequently. He made me realize that these lovely birds are petite and almost dainty. I think I shall continue this particular painting but may try harder to paint those to come life-size because a series is in order.
Visiting the Owl Foundation this fall thanks to my friend Sandy reinforced my long love of owls, a leaning which I have inherited from my mother. It is a spectacularly successful owl rehabilitation centre, world-class in my opinion. While its buildings are neither new nor expensively constructed, they embody the insights of decades of observation. Everything on the property reflects the intelligent intent and hard work of the McKeevers and those who have joined their mission to save injured owls. There was, I admit, only one small shock -- finding out that Honky was a male (!) (see May 15), if an unusually enormous one.
So I offered to donate some owl paintings - both the originals and the rights to the image. Most people don't realize that, unless it is stated otherwise, copyright (and therefore reproduction right) is retained by the artist. Sometimes the image is more useful to a charity than the original, which can only be sold once. Cards can be produced indefinitely if the public finds an image appealing. I hope each painting will help provide the real owner of the image with a better life.