What’s the Perfect Size for My Painting?

As we’ve all seen, there is a measurable sense of comfort needed in each room in a home by all household occupants – even the family cat and dog seem to favor certain spots to claim as their own … spots that have a magic for them. Isn’t it understandable that the “favorite spots” for all of us are the ones in which we feel most balanced?

Many naturally occurring feelings of balance can actually be mathematically mapped out.  Basic human “magic” numbers for these math maps are 3, 5 and 7, and generally correlate to what’s considered good, naturally balanced design. For the number 3, it boils down to the designer’s rule of thirds. In short, everything you see in a glance is more interesting yet calm when it fits into thirds.

5 and 7 are other naturally occurring spatial divisions. These numbers of items in a room can deliver a comfortable, pleasing feeling of asymmetrical balance, and, as pointed out by Jacci Howard Bear’s balance lesson 2, “you can still have an interesting design without perfect symmetry.”

Your artwork should be comfortably spread out in the space of your room, and paintings are generally desired to fill a certain third, or fifth of the available space of the wall they inhabit.  Working with smaller paintings might include filling a 1/7 spot.  But remember, instead of taking ownership of their space purely with bulk, artwork also commands territory with color and even subject matter.

 

Formal Child Painting

Smallest Bridesmaid

How Large Portraits Add Balance Without Overpowering

So where does the painting of your petite daughter and her pet bunny rabbit go best?  Let your room decide. If you have the space and family focus for this fragile subject to go over a mantle, look at having something life-sized like a 40×30 inch canvas.  If the eyes are done well, no one will be able to take their eyes off her.

If however, your portrait will be of your senior husband in his St. Andrew’s Society regalia with his golf clubs at his side, you should either opt for a whole wall and something over 60 inches tall, or go with a long sofa wall and a smaller, ornately framed figurative size such as 24×30 inches.  Having a landscape orientation will lend grandeur to the smaller sized painting.

When Is Small the Right Size?

Again, it’s an old design trick to let the room (or actually, the wall) decide what size art-piece will go where. In portraiture though, the painting decides. After all, a sofa can always be moved, a drapery diminished, lighting re-wired and rugs rearranged. Your portrait choice should be made based on the degree of focus you want for the painting.

A special memory of a beloved sister, aunt and great-aunt can be small and beautifully framed, and hung for most intimate effect in the family stairway. Those three adorable, mischievous grandsons inheriting multiple family names?… It’s best to go big and share the joy!

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