Saturday, March 29, 2014

Image size and the Internet

John Terwilliger, "In the Shadow of Man", Pastel, chalk, charcoal on paper", 80"x120", 1989
The New York School abstract expressionists new that size matters, and so did the Minimalists who followed them.   Standing in front of one of Jackson Pollacks paintings is an entirely different experience from seeing an illustration online.  If you don't believe me look at Chuck Close's painting Frank at the Minneapolis Institute of Art in gallery G373 online and in person (it is almost always on display).  

In my drawing above you can get a feel of the composition and the general idea of the artwork, but until you are standing next to it, the drawing towering over all except the tallest individuals, you do not get a feel for it.  It definitely does not have the impact or effect or quite possibly the meaning I meant it to have when drawing it.  It is in fact a completely different piece of artwork from the original, just as the the small engravings of paintings from the Renaissance are not the same as the painting depicted.

 In today's digital age an artist is in competition not just with contemporaries, but virtually every artists who ever lived who's art survived the ages.  Want to hang work by Vincent Van Gogh on your walls but don't have a hundred million dollars for an original?  Just by a print of one and frame it.  Whoever owns the rights to an artwork can photograph or scan it and produce for sale high quality (or low quality) prints of the original in almost any size imaginable. 

But most viewing today is online, on a computer monitor, or even a tiny little phone screen.  Most visual art is doomed when reduced to such a tiny and inadequate viewing device.  But the reverse can also be the same.  I have a lot of work drawn at Art Trading Card (ATC) size of 2.5"x3.5".  These works look great when holding them in your hand, but can look crude online when enlarged way beyond the original size.   The following drawing is uploaded at ATC size 72dpi for a total width of 252 pixels (or dots)
John Terwilliger, "Old Crow", Graphite pencil, 2.5"x3.5", 2010-01-30
I like to scan my drawings at 1200+ dpi because I have a printer that outputs well over that resolution.  for reference that ATC size drawing comes out to over 52" wide at the standard internet display resolution of 72 dpi.

The top picture forces you to stand in relation to it and absorb its presence while the lower one is intimate and can be held in the palm of your hand.  Yet here in this blog post they appear about the same size.  Very disquieting for me as an artist knowing this is how most will experience the artwork.  If fact, in both of the artworks shown this is the only way for you to view the actual artwork.  The top piece is rolled up in storage probably to never be displayed publicly in my lifetime, and the bottom one is sold out of state.

Do I miss the sold work?  No, I still have the actual crow skull in my studio; I can draw it again, though it will have less feathers left on it.


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