We often think of art as BIG. Work that hangs in galleries and museums is generally large—space-filling installations, enormous canvasses, massive sculptures. I am always awestruck in the presence of such large-scale work. I walk around these spaces marveling at the sheer scope and magnitude of the work.
Large scale work—by its very nature—is public work. It is intended to be viewed in large spaces by a large number of people. As museums and galleries continue to build spaces to accommodate these works, artists continue to be lured into producing the sort of work that might one day occupy these spaces.
But art doesn’t have to be large. Small-scale work is by no means a new trend. In an article published by the New York Times in 1994, the move toward tiny and micro-galleries in New York’s East Village happened organically and was tailor-made for the small-scale, introverted art of the 90's, much of which was never intended for blockbuster viewing. Many found this ancillary art scene refreshing. It was not just the intimacy of the work that drew viewers in, but the fact that the space in which it was viewed was unassuming—a gallery carved out of a living room, or a hallway winding into a bedroom. A kind of treasure hunt intended for the quiet art lover.
In museums, we discover the colossal works of known masters, but we rarely see their sketchbooks, their concept drawings, or their more intimate works. I often wonder where these smaller masterpieces are kept and why they are not as openly shared. An occasional exhibit may feature smaller or more private work, but these are rare viewing opportunities for work that is not usually on display.
When I look to collect artwork for my own home, I obviously look to smaller-scale work—work that I can hang in my small living room or in my tiny bathroom gallery, where I curate a small collection of masterpieces from artists I admire. There is much to appreciate about small-scale art, including its intricacy and attention to detail. I also appreciate its portability. I started creating pen and ink illustrations for this very reason. A sketchbook and a pen are easy to carry and move with. Easy to haul across state lines with if you’re an artist on the move, or to toss into a bag if you’re backpacking, or to simply bring along for a day at the beach. Ease of mobility aside, there is also the matter of price. More so than other mediums, drawing is affordable—anyone can make art with a single pen! I love the intimate feel of a sketch on a napkin, a drawn paper bag, or a detailed landscape on a random piece of paper. Back when I started drawing and exploring different mediums, the idea that art could be accessible to anyone—that art was not elitist or reserved only for those who could afford to create it—appealed to me then, as it does now, most of all.
Inspired by the idea that art can be everywhere and should be enjoyed by everyone, I am launching a new series called Itas. As in pequeñitas. In Spanish, we often use diminutives (e.g., ito, ita) to indicate a smaller size or infer affection. Itas will include little works—no larger than 5x7—intended to hang just about anywhere.
This will be an ongoing series. Check it out here.
Cheers to an inspired 2023!